Defending IndyCar champion Palou admits it “feels good” to take pole for Sonsio GP following practice difficulties

Photo Credit: Penske Entertainment | Titus Slaughter
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Two-time and defending IndyCar champion Alex Palou will start the Sonsio GP on the Indy Road Course from P1 later today as he produced a superb turnaround in qualifying.

The Spanish driver had looked to be struggling in practice, placing P17 and P11 in the two practice sessions as he struggled with his car.

Come late Friday afternoon, however, things started to turn.He was P2 on the banker laps on blacks in Round 1, and the 27-year-old booked his spot in Round 2 by finishing 5th.

Again on the primaries he was rapid in the Fast 12, jumping to the top of the charts. His alternate lap put him P4 in the end to make it through to the Fast 6.

In the Fast 6, he beat Christian Lundgaard to pole by 0.09s as Will Power had a scruffy lap at the end. The Australian had looked favourite for P1 for most of qualifying.

Palou was understandably pleased with the comeback following a tricky couple of practice sessions.

“Yeah, practice 1 we didn’t really have any issues, and we were like P16 or 17, then P11 for practice 2. Made a small step.

“Then Q1 I think we were sixth, so made another step, and then we kept on improving every single session that we were in with the car. It feels good.

“Hopefully we can find a little bit more for tomorrow for the race. It’s going to be tough. Yeah, looking forward to it.”

The mystery of making the alternates work properly continues to confuse drivers. At Barber, Palou was rapid in Round 1 but lost 0.8s in the Fast 12 as he could only manage 10th.

In first practice on Friday, Colton Herta logged a 1:09.2863. Before he ran out of fuel in qualifying, the Californian could only manage a 1:09.5391 in Round 1 as he was only P12.

A similar story befell Rinus VeeKay in qualifying. 2nd in his Group in Round 1 on a 1:08.9462, the Dutch driver could only manage a 1:09.3915 in the Fast 12, meaning he starts P12 later today. His Round 1 time would have placed him P5 in Round 2.

Palou concedes he is unsure as to why it’s so difficult to get the peak performance out of the red Firestone tyre on a consistent basis.

“I don’t know. I wish I could know. I don’t really know what it is.

“There’s obviously — it’s tougher this season for everybody, not for our team but for every single team to be consistent. We’ve seen Herta was P1 this morning, and I think he didn’t make it to the Fast 12. We were really fast in Barber and then suddenly we lost a ton of performance.

I don’t know what it is. I wish I would know. Yeah.”

Qualifying saw most drivers do an out lap, a relatively aggressive push to get the tyres operating in the right window and then a proper flying lap.

Palou believes this was down to the conditions more than anything else.

“No, I would say it’s more related to conditions.

“Like in August we had the same alternate tyre with some people could push on the first timed lap, some others we couldn’t. In May we could all push on the first timed lap, but it was a completely different alternate.

“Yeah, I mean, it keeps on changing. Stuff keeps on changing, which makes it tough to know.

“But for sure the conditions today doesn’t help to go hard on the first push lap. I think nobody did. Maybe McLaughlin in Q1.”