Practice report

Barber IndyCar: Palou quickest in first practice as 2021 season begins

New Chip Ganassi Racing driver Alex Palou topped opening practice for the 2021 IndyCar Series season opener at Barber Motorsports Park.


The Spaniard, heading into his second season in IndyCar, produced a 1m06.472s lap to take top spot ahead of Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta, who went just 0.017s short of displacing him.

Three-time Barber winner and two-time series champion Josef Newgarden slotted into third just 0.006s further back for Team Penske.

Defending series champion Scott Dixon should have jumped up to the top of the times late on, but the Chip Ganassi Racing ace's best time was deleted after being set during a red-flag incident when his former team-mate Felix Rosenqvist had an embarrassingly slow crash in his Arrow McLaren SP.

With just under 10 minutes to go, the Swede understeered into the barrier coming into the pitlane as he attempted to negotiate the downhill left corner while applying his pitlane speed limiter.

“The steering wheel kind of slipped out of my hand, it was a stupid mistake but it is what it is,” Rosenqvist said after the session, having still finished FP1 in 10th place, five spots behind team-mate Pato O’Ward.

“The heaviness of the steering in these cars, sometimes you can’t hold with just one hand on the wheel without losing it. It was in slow motion and an awkward thing but the car felt good anyway.”

Fastest rookie was Penske’s Scott McLaughlin in eighth place, just 0.015s adrift of two-time Barber winner Will Power, but ahead of the third Ganassi car of Marcus Ericsson.

Josef Newgarden, Team Penske

Josef Newgarden, Team Penske

Photo by: Joe Skibinski, IndyCar Series

Fellow rookie Romain Grosjean was around half a second slower than his Dale Coyne Racing team-mate Ed Jones, the ex-Formula 1 driver finishing the session in 21st ahead of his first race since his fiery crash at last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix - when he was fortunate to escape the wreckage of his Haas car with only burned hands.

The final member of IndyCar's illustrious rookie trio, NASCAR legendJimmie Johnson, completed the joint-most laps of the session with Graham Rahal, both completing 22 tours.

Although Johnson wound up in last place on the timesheet, surviving a slight moment on the grass through the high-speed Turn 10 right-hander, he was within 1.5s of his pacesetting team-mate Palou and only 0.186s slower than Carlin’s Max Chilton.

Cla Driver Team Laps Time Gap
1 Spain Alex Palou United States Chip Ganassi Racing 18 1'06.472  
2 United States Colton Herta United States Andretti Autosport 16 1'06.489 0.017
3 United States Josef Newgarden United States Team Penske 14 1'06.495 0.023
4 New Zealand Scott Dixon United States Chip Ganassi Racing 12 1'06.552 0.080
5 Mexico Patricio O'Ward Arrow McLaren SP 11 1'06.628 0.156
6 United States Alexander Rossi United States Andretti Autosport 14 1'06.630 0.158
7 Australia Will Power United States Team Penske 16 1'06.734 0.262
8 New Zealand Scott McLaughlin United States Team Penske 17 1'06.749 0.277
9 Sweden Marcus Ericsson United States Chip Ganassi Racing 18 1'06.799 0.327
10 Sweden Felix Rosenqvist Arrow McLaren SP 10 1'06.843 0.371
11 United States Conor Daly United States Ed Carpenter Racing 17 1'06.869 0.397
12 United States Ryan Hunter-Reay United States Andretti Autosport 14 1'06.877 0.405
13 United Arab Emirates Ed Jones Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan 16 1'07.057 0.585
14 Canada James Hinchcliffe Andretti Steinbrenner Autosport 15 1'07.107 0.635
15 France Sébastien Bourdais United States A.J. Foyt Enterprises 12 1'07.231 0.758
16 France Simon Pagenaud United States Team Penske 18 1'07.232 0.760
17 United Kingdom Jack Harvey United States Meyer Shank Racing 17 1'07.248 0.776
18 United States Graham Rahal United States Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 22 1'07.310 0.837
19 Netherlands Rinus van Kalmthout United States Ed Carpenter Racing 17 1'07.315 0.843
20 Japan Takuma Sato United States Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing 18 1'07.534 1.062
21 France Romain Grosjean Dale Coyne Racing with RWR 19 1'07.553 1.081
22 Canada Dalton Kellett United States A.J. Foyt Enterprises 17 1'07.727 1.255
23 United Kingdom Max Chilton United Kingdom Carlin 16 1'07.765 1.293
24 United States Jimmie Johnson United States Chip Ganassi Racing 22 1'07.950 1.478
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