Sebastien Bourdais led an eight-car Honda train in the opening practice session for the Detroit Grand Prix, with an IndyCar Series debutant not far behind him.
Bourdais set a fast lap at 1m17.8545s, followed by Scott Dixon (+0.0623s) and Graham Rahal, who swept both Detroit races in 2017, third fastest at 1m17.9830s (+0.1285s). Andretti Autosport teammates Alexander Rossi (+0.2959s) and Marco Andretti (+0.4464s) rounded out the top five.
In a frenetic final 90 seconds –precipitated by Robert Wickens bringing out a brief red flag when he drove into the Turn 7 runoff — Haas F1 development driver Santino Ferrucci jumped up to sixth with a 1m18.3117s lap in the No.19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, 0.4572s off Bourdais’ pace. The 20-year-old from Connecticut is making his IndyCar debut while Pietro Fittipaldi recovers from injuries he suffered in the World Endurance Championship season opener at Spa just shy of one month ago.
“It’s short track time, a track he’s never been on, probably the bumpiest track he’s ever been on, so there’s a lot to learn today,” Coyne told IMS Radio early in the session. “We put him out early, just let him get used to the place.”
Ferrucci, who has an off-weekend from his full season in Formula 2, has just two sessions to get used to the DCR Honda.
“It’s tough,” Coyne admitted. “We did a test at Putnam Park (outside Indianapolis)… this is his first test on a real racetrack, but he’ll be fine.
Josef Newgarden was the top-finishing Chevy in ninth. His teammate and newly minuted Indy 500 champion Will Power was 13th.
Rene Binder brought out a brief red flag with just over eight minutes to go when he nosed his Juncos Racing Chevy into the Turn 11 tire barrier. The IndyCar safety team restarted him and Binder drove it back to the pits.
Ed Jones, who suffered a hard crash during the Indy 500 and was sent to Methodist Hospital for evaluation afterward, was cleared to drive this morning and finished 20th fastest.
Wildlife once again made for some close calls, as a squirrel scampered near the line of James Hinchcliffe, Marco Andretti, Matheus Leist and Gabby Chaves.
UP NEXT: Friday’s second 45-minute practice session starts at 3:10 p.m. ET. Qualifying for Race 1 is Saturday at 10:55 a.m.