Sato: Why being "super-fast" in Indy 500 qualifying can be "way too fast"

Indianapolis 500 practice pacesetter Takuma Sato says it's crucial for his Chip Ganassi Racing team to find a balance in terms of qualifying speed across a four-lap run this weekend.

Takuma Sato, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Sato lit up the overall speed charts on Friday with a single lap of 234.753mph, before almost brushing the wall at Turn 2 and abandoning his four-lap qualifying simulation.

He admitted that his car had been too trimmed out to complete the full qualifying run, but believes that was a necessary learning experience to return later with more downforce to top the four-lap speeds too with a very consistent 233.413mph.

"When I saw it the first time I crossed the line, it was like super-fast, maybe way too fast," he said of his lairy opening run. "But I wanted to see how the car developed. 

"In the end, it was obviously very light, too light, and I had to abort it. But that was a good experience.

"Even the Ganassi camp can't be perfectly correct all the time. You have to overshoot – you don't have to – but if you overshoot, then you correct it. It's to get the balance right over the four laps."

Before Sato and team-mate Marcus Ericsson went to the head of the four-lap speeds, the Ganassi cars seemed to struggle for consistency.

"We definitely have a drop-off," Sato admitted. "If you have one big lap in the first lap, sure you have degradation. It's how you balance [it].

"In [my] Rahal days, we had a low speed, unfortunately. But we went to [be] super consistent. That brought us in the front row.

"It's depending on strategy. But hopefully we will find a good solution."

When asked about his near miss with the wall, he admitted: "I saw it afterwards how close it was. It was a bit scary.

"Of course, I think at that point the entry is always tricky. With the wind direction like this, it pushes the car going high. You have to be little bit shallow entry, because if you try to go late apex, you never get to the apex. You have to be turning already.

"I realized that was a little too shallow, feet away from the apex supposed to be. That's launching a little bit wrong direction. I already took my foot off, but then the car slides.

"If it's qualifying, I probably nail it."

Patricio O'Ward, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Patricio O'Ward, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Photo by: Geoffrey M. Miller / Motorsport Images

Arrow McLaren's Pato O'Ward explained the trade-off between adding downforce or trimming out for less drag.

"You start playing with downforce – you load it up a little bit more if you want to be more consistent," he said. "It really depends on what balance you have. Obviously, there's going to be some drop-off.

"If you want to be in the Fast 12, your first lap has to be in the 234s. If you want to complete your run well, you can't fall out of the 232s, high 231s if you want to get a solid average."

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