Sato claims season-opening pole at St. Pete

Sato claims season-opening pole at St. Pete

30 March 2014 – Takuma Sato will start on pole for tomorrow's Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the inaugural race in the 2014 IndyCar Series season. Collecting his fourth career IndyCar pole, Sato qualified nearly 0.3 seconds ahead of second place Tony Kanaan, last year's Indianapolis 500 winner. The four-time defending pole-sitter, Will Power, will start P4 behind Andretti Racing's Ryan Hunter-Reay.

An eventful day in St. Petersburg, Florida, saw the grandstands evacuated around midday for severe storms and a chance of tornados. Qualifying was pushed back for three and a half hours before the track was deemed safe enough to drive, and even then wet tyres weren't enough to prevent several spins and red flags.

Graham Rahal was the first to be caught off-guard by the weather, sliding into the wall early in the first session.  Defending race winner James Hinchcliffe followed suit with a minute to go, guaranteeing that he would not move on to the second round of qualifying. Kanaan, Hunter-Reay, Mike Conway, Marco Andretti, Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe advanced to Q2.

While the second half of the field took to the track for their Q1, the rain diminished slightly, but wet tyres were still needed. Times began to drop as a result, and Takuma Sato again finished the session P1. Moving on to Q2 with him were Scott Dixon, rookies Carlos Munoz and Jack Hawksworth, Power and Sebastian Saavedra.

As Q2 began, Conway, Briscoe and Sato immediately left the pits on slick tyres, hoping the drying track would play into their hands later in the session. Several minutes in, it appeared they had made the right choice. The rest of the field pitted to change to slicks, and by the end of Q2 lap times were equal to those from the dry practice sessions.

When time expired, it looked as though the British rookie Hawksworth would make it to the Firestone Fast Six, but there were still cars on track. Sitting on the bubble as the chequered flag came out, fellow rookie Munoz jumped him only for both to be eliminated by Dixon. Thus no rookies would make it to the pole shootout. Sato led the way ahead of Hunter-Reay, Power, Andretti, Kanaan and Dixon, meaning he had been fastest in three of the five sessions in which he'd taken part this weekend.

With the Fast Six decided, the final ten-minute Q3 began on a totally dry track. Everyone opted for the red-walled Firestone tyres and immediately saw some of the quickest laps of the weekend. A flurry of changes at the top of the time sheet eventually led to Sato in P1, just 0.0028s ahead of Kanaan. As the Brazilian pushed on his final lap he uneventfully spun into the Turn 1 runoff, ending his chances for pole. Sato responded with an even faster lap, stretching his lead to 0.3s before promptly entering pitlane for the final minute.

Kanaan and Hunter-Reay followed suit, leaving only Dixon, Power and Andretti to challenge the Japanese driver, but none of them improved on their final laps, giving Sato the fourth pole of his career.

Sato also started last year on a high note, qualifying second in last year’s season opener for A.J. Foyt Racing.  Two races later he qualified P4 en route to winning his first IndyCar event at the Grand Prix of Long Beach. He held the points lead going into the Indy 500, but a string of poor results relegated him to P17 in the final standings. During his brief IndyCar career, the former F1 driver also won pole in Edmonton, Iowa (both 2011) and Houston (2013).

Of the four rookies in the field this weekend, Munoz and Hawksworth will start in the top ten. Russian Mikhail Aleshin and Colombian Carlos Huertas will start P15 and P17, respectively. Fellow Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya, returning to IndyCar for the first time since 2000, will start P18.

related

Comments

Latest News
Full
Compact

  1. Wednesday 22 October 2014

  2. Background: The Toro Rosso candidates 15:57

    Background: The Toro Rosso candidates

    New Toro Rosso recruit Max Verstappen will become the youngest driver in F1 history when he takes to the grid aged 17 next...

    F1
  3. Video: Hamilton's Stars & Cars invitation 15:12

    Video: Hamilton's Stars & Cars invitation

    Mercedes-Benz will stage the once annual 'Stars & Cars' event at its Stuttgart museum on November 29. Lewis Hamilton, who...

    F1
  4. Sam Michael set to leave McLaren 13:15

    Sam Michael set to leave McLaren

    McLaren Sporting Director Sam Michael is to leave the team at the end of the season. A McLaren spokesperson has confirmed...

    F1
  5. Lotus expects to keep Grosjean for 2015 11:12

    Lotus expects to keep Grosjean for 2015

    Lotus team owner Gerard Lopez says he expects to retain Romain Grosjean for the 2015 season, despite admitting that the...

    F1
  6. 09:43

    Photos: Márquez, Pedrosa visit Indonesia

    MotoGP
  7. Pérez on brink of new Force India deal 09:34

    Pérez on brink of new Force India deal

    Sergio Pérez says he is likely to sign a fresh Force India deal "in the next week", a move that would complete the outfit's...

    F1
  8. Video of the Day: Wolff on F1 title success 05:15

    Video of the Day: Wolff on F1 title success

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff discusses the brand's maiden Formula 1 Constructors' success.

    F1
  9. Tuesday 21 October 2014

  10. 16:03

    Book F1 tickets and join the action live!

    F1
  11. Silverstone senior executives suspended 13:55

    Silverstone senior executives suspended

    The British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC) has taken "a closer role" in the day-to-day running of Silverstone following the...

    F1
  12. Caterham insists team not threatened 12:25

    Caterham insists team not threatened

    Caterham has dismissed media reports suggesting that Caterham Sports Limited (CSL) being placed into administration will...

    F1
  13. Lotus mourns death of Total chief 11:08

    Lotus mourns death of Total chief

    Lotus says it has been left "shocked" and "deeply saddened" by the death of Christophe de Margerie, Chairman and CEO of team...

    F1
  14. Spa to fight Nissan's use of Eau Rouge name 09:50

    Spa to fight Nissan's use of Eau Rouge name

    The Spa-Francorchamps circuit says it will contest an application from car manufacturer Nissan to trademark "Eau...

    F1
  15. Video: Miami welcomes Formula E 09:30

    Video: Miami welcomes Formula E

    Watch as the track layout for the Miami ePrix, scheduled to take place on March 14 next year, is revealed.

    Formula E
  16. Miami reveals Formula E circuit layout 09:22

    Miami reveals Formula E circuit layout

    Miami has become the latest Formula E host to reveal its track layout for the electric championship. Produced by track...

    Formula E
  17. Pons retains Tunjo for 2015 FR3.5 season 09:07

    Pons retains Tunjo for 2015 FR3.5 season

    Pons Racing has confirmed that Óscar Tunjo will remain with the team in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series next year. The...

    FR 3.5
  18. Video of the Day: Nasr samples FW08C 05:11

    Video of the Day: Nasr samples FW08C

    Williams reserve Felipe Nasr sampled Keke Rosberg's 1983 FW08C at the team's Partner Day at Silverstone.

    F1
  19. Monday 20 October 2014

  20. Brawn, Domenicali on new Accident Panel 17:54

    Brawn, Domenicali on new Accident Panel

    Former Formula 1 team bosses Ross Brawn and Stefano Domenicali have joined the FIA's new Accident Panel, which has been put...

    F1
  21. Moscow Raceway earns licence for F1 races 17:14

    Moscow Raceway earns licence for F1 races

    Moscow Raceway has been granted an FIA Grade 1 licence, allowing it to stage Formula 1 races. The track, located some...

    Misc
  22. Wolff confirmed for Race Of Champions 15:04

    Wolff confirmed for Race Of Champions

    Susie Wolff will become the first female driver to compete at the Race Of Champions after signing up for this year's event...

    F1
  23. De Vries gets FR3.5 seat with DAMS 14:43

    De Vries gets FR3.5 seat with DAMS

    McLaren junior Nyck de Vries will compete in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series with reigning champion team DAMS next...

    FR 3.5
  24. Lotus to trial new nose design at Austin 13:58

    Lotus to trial new nose design at Austin

    Lotus will test a new nose during practice for the United States Grand Prix, as the team looks to finalise its design for...

    F1
  25. Rossi says tyre choice crucial to victory 13:23

    Rossi says tyre choice crucial to victory

    Valentino Rossi says choosing the extra-soft Bridgestone front tyre was crucial to his second victory of the season at...

    MotoGP
  26. Force India retains Hülkenberg for 2015 10:08

    Force India retains Hülkenberg for 2015

    Force India has confirmed that Nico Hülkenberg will continue to race for the team next season. Hülkenberg, 27, returned t...

    F1
  27. Silverstone, Le Mans back on FR3.5 calendar 09:19

    Silverstone, Le Mans back on FR3.5 calendar

    The World Series by Renault package, which includes Formula Renault 3.5, will return to Silverstone and Le Mans next...

    FR 3.5
  28. Sainz Jr. elated by championship success 07:22

    Sainz Jr. elated by championship success

    Red Bull youngster Carlos Sainz Jr. hailed his "incredible" season after he succeeded Kevin Magnussen as Formula Renault 3.5...

    FR 3.5
  29. Video of the Day: Mercedes celebrates title 05:04

    Video of the Day: Mercedes celebrates title

    Mercedes celebrates its first Formula 1 Constructors' success at its bases in Brackley and Brixworth.

    F1
  30. Sunday 19 October 2014

  31. DTM champion Wittmann gets Toro Rosso test 20:39

    DTM champion Wittmann gets Toro Rosso test

    Marco Wittmann will receive a Formula 1 test with Toro Rosso as his reward from BMW for winning this year's DTM...

    DTM
  32. Verstappen ends F3 season in third place 17:11

    Verstappen ends F3 season in third place

    Future Toro Rosso driver Max Verstappen has finished his sole FIA Formula 3 European campaign in third place after losing...

    F1
  33. Kubica: Formula 1 return would be a dream 14:30

    Kubica: Formula 1 return would be a dream

    Robert Kubica says he has not yet given up on the prospect of returning to Formula 1 at some point in the future and will...

    F1
  34. 13:38

    Latest FR3.5 photos: Sunday at Jerez

    FR 3.5
  35. Dominant Rowland wins FR3.5 finale at Jerez 13:37

    Dominant Rowland wins FR3.5 finale at Jerez

    Oliver Rowland claimed victory in the final race of the Formula Renault 3.5 season as he controlled proceedings throughout...

    FR 3.5
  36. 09:20

    Latest MotoGP photos: Sunday at Phillip Island

    MotoGP
  37. Márquez 'not on the limit' before crash 09:19

    Márquez 'not on the limit' before crash

    World Champion Marc Márquez says he was not riding on the limit when he crashed out of the lead in the Australian Grand Prix...

    MotoGP
  38. Rossi wins incident-packed race in Australia 06:50

    Rossi wins incident-packed race in Australia

    Valentino Rossi claimed his second win of the year in an incident-packed Australian Grand Prix after World Champion Marc...

    MotoGP
  39. Video of the Day: Pedrosa on Phillip Island 03:00

    Video of the Day: Pedrosa on Phillip Island

    Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa chose his fondest Phillip Island memory ahead of Sunday's race at the track.

    MotoGP
  40. Saturday 18 October 2014

  41. 13:52

    Latest FR3.5 photos: Saturday at Jerez

    FR 3.5
  42. Stevens wins, Sainz Jr. clinches title 13:51

    Stevens wins, Sainz Jr. clinches title

    Carlos Sainz Jr. clinched the 2014 Formula Renault 3.5 championship at the very first corner of the final round in Jerez...

    FR 3.5
  43. Ecclestone: Las Vegas targeting Formula 1 race 09:32

    Ecclestone: Las Vegas targeting Formula 1 race

    Bernie Ecclestone says a Formula 1 race could be held on the streets of Las Vegas in the future. Ecclestone has long seen...

    F1
  44. 07:54

    Latest MotoGP photos: Saturday at Phillip Island

    MotoGP
  45. Márquez flies to pole position in Australia 06:21

    Márquez flies to pole position in Australia

    MotoGP World Champion Marc Márquez claimed pole position for the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island ahead of Ducati...

    MotoGP
more news