Simon Pagenaud expects a draft-happy Month of May following the first day of practice for the 2018 Indianapolis 500.
The Team Penske driver ended Tuesday with the fastest overall time across all sessions, but said that the drafting characteristics of the new aero was one of the biggest lessons from the day’s running.
“The draft is bigger than last year,” he said. “I don’t know why, but you can draft from way back. But you still get an aero wash. There’s not as much turbulence as last year, but finding the balance is going to be challenging. I think it’s going to be the same kind of racing [as in recent years]. Crazy.”
Adding to the challenge, he said, is the relative simplicity of the new aero package, which requires the teams to find new ways of addressing handling imbalances.
“There’s obviously a lot less options than what we had in the past,” Pagenaud said. “With all the winglets we had, it was very complicated. Now it’s more simple, but it’s a different way to make the car work. You got to keep an open mind, that’s for sure. But tomorrow’s going to be a different checklist, different items that we’re going to try, probably more mechanical. Today was more an aerodynamic day.”
Struggles to find balance in traffic was a common opening day theme.
“The car had a really good balance when I ran by myself,” said Dreyer & Reinbold returnee Sage Karam. “So, we started with that and then tried to trim out and gain more speed by myself. Once I felt comfortable there, I ran with traffic. This was the first time I ran in traffic with the new car and it’s interesting. It looks like everyone is dealing with the same issue, which is the lack of front grip. These new cars, when you don’t have clean air, you lose a lot of front grip. That’s the battle for everyone right now, is to find front grip.”