Welcome to Andretti Autosport, Romain Grosjean. The Swiss-born Frenchman topped the opening practice session for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, running a best of 1m01.0525s in the No. 28 Honda with teammate and defending race winner Colton Herta in tow 0.1042s arrears in the No. 26 Honda.
Team Penske’s Will Power was third as the first representative for Chevy in the No. 12 entry (+0.1757s), and he had former teammate Simon Pagenaud holding an impressive fourth in his first official outing for Meyer Shank Racing in the No. 60 Honda (+0.2724s). Graham Rahal was fifth in his No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda (+0.3158s) and the top six was rounded out by Andretti’s Alexander Rossi (+0.4045s).
“We just had our first session at St. Pete and my first official session for Andretti Autosport,” Grosjean said. “To be P1 in the first practice is amazing. We will keep up the work as well as pushing the setup, but I am very happy with how the session went and to be here. Hopefully more to come this weekend.”
Among those who impressed or underwhelmed, Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing rookie David Malukas was tenth, fastest of all newcomers, and he was shadowed by 2021 Indy Lights champion Kyle Kirkwood in 12th with A.J. Foyt Racing. Devlin DeFrancesco made it was a trio of rookies with a quick lap that earned 13th for Andretti Autosport.
Teams or driver with a lot of work to do before Saturday’s 9 a.m. practice session include Arrow McLaren SP, which had Felix Rosenqvist in 16th and Pato O’Ward a surprising 20th. AMSP’s performance issues were nothing compared to Chip Ganassi Racing whose best was Marcus Ericsson in 15th, followed by reigning champion Alex Palou in 17th, Scott Dixon in 19th, and Jimmie Johnson 24th out of the 26 cars in attendance.
The only drama to come from the session belonged to Johnson who went long into a runoff area, had a brake fire start while sitting stationary, and with his problem, the session was halted just as he backed up and drove to the pits with a few minutes remaining on the clock. The timing of Johnson’s issue interrupted a few drivers who were starting a new-tire run, which left some drivers with a slower final lap time than anticipated.