The Schmidt/Peterson team didn’t look like a candidate to claim two of the spots in the Fast Six for Sunday’s Indy Grand Prix.
Sure, rookie Robert Wickens had been among the quickest drivers during Friday’s two practice periods, but teammate James Hinchcliffe was nowhere — mired in 18th following the second session.
But the Canadian pals and teammates put their heads together between practice and qualifying and delivered when it counted.
“We’re kind of making a bit of a habit of this and it would be a whole lot easier on everybody in the engineering office if we just started strong right away and went from there,” said Hinchcliffe, who continued his strong efforts under the clock and has now started 7-5-8-5-4 in 2018.
“We didn’t have a super awesome test a couple weeks ago and rolled off the truck with some balance problems, and then in P2 we had a problem with the brake system and I just couldn’t get out of my own way. I was off track more than I was on it.”
While the brake issue limited Hinchcliffe’s development with the No. 5’s setup, his friend in the No. 6 was there to help fill in the gaps when it counted.
“To have a teammate that you can rely on as much as that, he was obviously very quick in P2, we really had to rely on them because we weren’t able to develop our car at all in practice 2,” said Hinchcliffe.
“We went out in qualifying not really knowing if the car was going to stop the way that I was kind of hoping it was going to and had to learn little bit by little bit, but still, we closed the gap to the guys up front, and to end up where we did.”
Wickens, who didn’t get to test at IMS, was right on point from the get-go Friday. He echoed the sentiment that the team has made a habit of rebounding from bad tests.
“I have all the faith in my Schmidt Peterson Motorsports guys that we’d be competitive, but it wasn’t a particularly strong test from us,” he said. “But we seem to do this time and time again at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, where kind of a bad rehearsal and then a good gig the next time around.
“So in the end, I was very happy with the car, I mean, all day, right from practice — to be honest, in practice we struggled with it, but we turned it around, and then was feeling great in the quali, felt really good.”
Wickens, who has qualified 1-6-10-10-2 in his Arrow Honda, was still left disappointed with his second-place starting spot – not a bad problem to have.
“Unfortunately, in Q3 I made a mistake on the first lap, which made me do a second lap, and so far I’ve been getting the lap time on Lap 1 on the [Firestone] reds, and basically just missed it,” he added. “But bittersweet. I feel like a jerk being upset with second place, but I think when you go quickest in your first two qualies, you kind of hope to finish the job off. But nevertheless, it’s a great job by Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, both of us in the Fast Six, and both of us have some good opportunities for tomorrow.”