Herta leads O’Ward and Rossi in crash-filled first practice at Laguna Seca with five red flags

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Friday’s first practice at Laguna Seca is the penultimate one of the season ahead of the final round on Sunday at the iconic circuit on the western side of the United States.

With so much grip and little degradation following a repavement earlier in the year, drivers headed straight out and pounded around instead of coming straight in like they normally would on these type of tracks.

At the 10-minute mark, Alexander Rossi’s 1:07.6336 saw him at the top of the charts, with Kirkwood and Vips also in the 1:07s. Malukas and Newgarden completed the top 5.

The first big off track moment was delivered by Callum Ilott at turn 6 as he had a big moment through the gravel trap. Not long after his former F2 and now IndyCar rival Christian Lundgaard went through the gravel at the Corkscrew.

With 30 minutes completed, a 1:07.5382 from Colton Herta in his special livery for this weekend saw him ahead of Rossi, Ericsson, Kirkwood, Vips, Rahal, Dixon, VeeKay, Palou and Power.

Two-time series champion Will Power joined the gravel excursion club as he had a big moment at turn 10 but continued.

A red flag had to be thrown with just over 42 minutes to go as Romain Grosjean crashed at turn 4. He lost the rear on entry and hit the tyres at high-speed, breaking his front right suspension and generally leaving the car with plenty of damage at the rear.

The session resumed after a 10-minute delay as some of the tyre bundles had to be put back into position following Grosjean’s big crash.

Just three minutes later, a second red flag had to be thrown as Juri Vips had to pull off before reaching the Corkscrew as the team saw something they didn’t like in regards to the engine. He got the car back to the pits as he rolled down the hill in neutral with nobody else on track.

Seconds after Pato O’Ward slotted into 2nd, a third red flag had to be brought out as Scott McLaughlin lost the car heading into turn 1 and spun into the gravel. The Kiwi had his right hand side tyres on the white line as he lost the car.

On the resumption, Scott Dixon was the latest driver to head off the circuit as he joined Ilott in having a rather hairy run through the gravel on the exit of turn 6.

Unfortunately for Agustin Canapino, he wasn’t so lucky. A couple of minutes after Dixon’s moment, the Argentine driver lost the rear of his car in the same area and got beached in the gravel trap. Out came red flag number four.

Ilott had vaulted up to P8 as drivers put on reds, with Blomqvist moving up to 11th before the fourth red flag arrived.

A fifth and final red flag had to be thrown with under four minutes to go as Will Power pulled off on the exit of turn 5 as he crashed at turn 4, breaking his rear wing and left rear suspension.

Herta’s 1:07.5382 from much earlier in the session stayed as the topped time in first practice. O’Ward, Rossi, Ericsson, Kirkwood, Vips, Rahal, Ilott, Dixon and VeeKay rounded out the top 10.

Palou in 12th, Power in 13th, McLaughlin in 16th and Newgarden in 20th were the positions of some of the other big names.

Photo credit: Penske Entertainment