Race Report: Palou wins ahead of the McLarens at IMS, takes championship lead

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Just ahead of the 107th running of the Indy 500, the Grand Prix of Indy takes place on the Indianapolis Road Circuit. Last year’s winner Colton Herta is called again to a recovery race starting from P14, whereas championship leader Marcus Ericsson will begin his race in P7.

It was a good qualifying session for both McLaren and Rahal Letterman Racing, with two drivers in the Fast 6, and especially for the latter as for the first time in his IndyCar career Christian Lundgaard will start from pole position, in the same track where he had achieved a podium last year.

At the start, the poleman appears at first to have had a great start, with Alex Palou overtaking Rosenqvist for P2, just as Graham Rahal suffered from a flat tyre after contact info turn 1. The Spanish driver goes on to overtake the Dane for the race lead before the end of the first lap.

Pedersen was forced to return to the pit lane after the formation lap due to radio issues, which left him four laps off race leader Palou.

In the end, it turned out to not be a great start for either drivers on the front row, with Rosenqvist fading off in P4 sandwiched by his Arrow McLaren teammates Rossi and O’Ward.

On Lap 2, David Malukas and Sting Ray Robb came into contact, with the latter hitting his teammate. The crash brought out the first full course yellow of the race. Some cars went into the pitlane, including Romain Grosjean, as many drivers slightly touched each other at the beginning of the race.

Green flag was issued on Lap 5, with the top three drivers consisting of Palou, Lundgaard and Harvey remaining the same. However, 2021 race winner Rossi soon overtakes the Rahal Letterman driver for P3, as Colton Herta makes his way up the grid to P8.

Kyle Kirkwood makes contact with Will Power into turn 2 after an aggressive move from the Australian, who ends up spinning and resuming the race in P24.

The Andretti driver was then penalised with having to drop back behind Power. On Lap 12 Ericsson tried to overtake Harvey for P8, but didn’t manage to complete the move.

Among the first drivers to pit is Rinus Veekay for reds, which allows rookie driver Marcus Armstrong to enter the Top 10 before his time to pit. Around Lap 18 race leader Palou’s 5s gap to Lundgaard drastically reduces to 2.7s, forcing him to return to the pits for fresh tyres as his alternates fell away. On Lap 19 Rossi swaps his tyres for new ones as well.

Lundgaard goes in on Lap 21, leaving Rosenqvist in the lead for the time of a lap as he is soon replaced by Ericsson. Rahal holds the lead on Lap 25, while Ericsson and Veekeay duel for P9.

Lundgaard overtakes Palou for provisional P2 on Lap 26 and manages to keep the position in spite of a small lockup. In the lead is Rahal, who had pitted very early due to a flat tyre. On Lap 32 he is called to the pits, leaving his teammate Lundgaard in the lead.

Grosjean on Lap 31 produced a double overtake on McLaughlin and Armstrong, which brings the French driver up to P14.

Jack Harvey spins out at turn 10, and rejoins the grid in P22, allowing Newgarden to move up to P6 and Herta to P7. DeFrancesco enters the top ten and goes for P9 ahead of Veekay.

On Lap 34 champonship leader Ericsson overtakes Herta for P7, whereas Lundgaard builds a 2.7s and growing gap to Palou. McLaughlin stops on Lap 38 to swap his tyres. O’Ward almost reaches Rosenqvist, but goes then to pit on Lap 40.

Grosjean has found his way up to the top 10, while Palou begins to gain on Lundgaard in the lead, who sees his advantage on the Chip Ganassi driver cut to only half a second. On Lap 42 he completes the move to return in the lead just as Rossi is pitting again.

Lundgaard pits, leaving Ericsson and Herta respectively in P2 and P3 and rejoining the grid behind O’Ward as Palou stops as well. It was a slow stop for both drivers fighting for the win, with Lundgaards’ pit taking over 8s compared to O’Ward’s who lasted a bit over 6s.

Palou tries multiple times to overtake O’Ward and manages to complete the move on Lap 45 into turn 7, with Lundgaard on used reds doing the same a lap after.

Scott Dixon holds the provisional race lead ahead of Rahal and Palou, with O’Ward followed by his McLaren teammates. Palou makes his way to P2 and then P1 shortly after, swiftly followed by Lundgaard and O’Ward.

The Chip Ganassi driver goes on to build a good 2.6s gap to the Danish driver in P2. O’Ward overtakes a consistently struggling Lundgaard on his reds for P2. Rahal pits with 28 laps to go, whereas his teammate launches the last round of pits for all the other drivers on the lap after.

Newgarden makes his ninth position up on Rosenqvist, and moves up to a provisional podium as Palou is pitting for used primaries, leaving O’Ward in the lead.

Photo credit: Penske Entertainment | Chris Jones

Simon Pagenaud stops on the way out of the pit lane due to a loose wheel, as Grosjean and McLaughlin are once again extremely close while exiting the pit area. Ferrucci’s car stops as well in another segment of the pit lane, but the Mexican driver still manages to complete his pit with 24 laps to go.

With 21 laps to go, Rossi has provisional lead on Palou and O’Ward as he heads to pit road. He rejoins in P4 behind Lundgaard. Palou is now in the lead with a 10s gap to the McLaren driver in P2, as Kirkwood enters the top 10 but is yet to stop.

Ericsson appears to be struggling in this stint, falling away in P9, which means he might have to conced the championship lead to someone else at the end of the round. He has been overtaken even by Newgarden. Another great recovery drive was offered by Dixon, who is now running in P7 after getting caught up in first lap dramas.

Last year’s race winner Herta has made his way up to the Top 5. With 11 laps to go, Rahal is in P10 and the best running rookie is still Marcus Armstrong, now a bit further back in P16.

Rossi and Lundgaard fight for the last podium position, with the Arrow McLaren driver prevailing in the end. The former winner at the Indy road circuit is still pushing to achieve his first podium with the new team.

With 6 laps to go, Rosenqvist and Dixon get closer and closer to Herta in P5, with the Swede completing the pass the lap after. Herta strikes back, but it’s short lived as the Andretti driver is passed by Dixon as well. Herta is also passed by Ericsson as enormous tyre degradation hits at the end for the Andretti man.

Alex Palou takes the victory and the championship lead at Indy Road Circuit, ahead of O’Ward, third time in P2 this season, and Rossi, his first podium with Arrow McLaren. Front row starters Lundgaard and Rosenqvist complete the Top 5, with Dixon, Newgarden, Ericsson, Herta and Rahal in the top 10.

It’s the first time since 2021 that Indycar has had five different race winners in the first five rounds of the year.