Rossi tops opening Toronto IndyCar practice

Joe Skibinski / Penske Entertainment

Rossi tops opening Toronto IndyCar practice


Rossi tops opening Toronto IndyCar practice


IndyCar’s return to the streets of Toronto after a two-year hiatus found Andretti Autosport’s surging Alexander Rossi ready for the task as he became the fastest driver in the 25-car field with a lap of 1m00.6090s in the No. 27 Honda.

Meyer Shank Racing’s Simon Pagenaud mirrored Rossi with a 1m00.6991s lap in his No. 60 Honda, and a happy Graham Rahal slotted into third with a 1m00.7031s run in his No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Ericsson made it four straight Hondas atop the list in his No. 8 entry with a 1m00.7262s, and the first of the Chevy brigade was Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden in the No. 2 car, who had Arrow McLaren SP’s Felix Rosenqvist in tow with the No. 7 Chevy’s 1m00.7936s.

“It was a really good first practice,” said Pagenaud, the defending race winner. “We still have some work to do; I want to take the car to another level. I love this track, man.”

Coming off a productive test at Sebring, Rahal was pleased with being near the front of the field.

“We would have liked to see more pace on the reds than what we got out of it, but we also ended up in the top three,” he said. “I like to see the guys smiling again. Everybody’s worked very hard to get here, so it’s nice.”

Fastest among the Toronto IndyCar first-timers was CGR’s Alex Palou in 10th, and in general, championship contenders like Palou, Penske’s Scott McLaughlin in 15th, an Pato O’Ward in 20th will be expected to extract more from themselves and their cars after having a night to digest all they picked up on Friday.

The NTT IndyCar Series’ starter also arrived in Toronto fully prepared for waving the red flag, which was unfurled three times, as a grid loaded with veterans and rookies learned or got reacclimated to the track through an increasing number of incidents that developed throughout the session.

With the group of rookies taking to the track as the veterans waited for Firestone rubber to be worked into the track surface, the first fast lap belonged to Palou, who registered a 1m03s lap before the first delay in the 75-minute session came with approximately 43 minutes left to run when the AMR Safety Team was dispatched to inspect a section of resurfaced track at Turn 2.

Once the track returned to green, a flurry of quick laps followed as Felix Rosenqvist improved the lead to a 1m01.3015s tour, edging Rossi who was just 0.0053s behind in second.

Moments before the next red flag was waved with 30 minutes left for Callum Ilott’s crash in Turn 1 that broke the front wings off the nose of his car and damaged the left-front suspension, Graham Rahal dropped the best lap to a 1m01.2189s.

Just over 20 minutes were left when cars returned to the track, and within a few laps, another red was needed to get Jimmie Johnson turned around and refired after spinning and stalling. The green flew again with 15 minutes to go and with the new rule where Firestone’s faster alternate tires are only made available in the first sessions—instead of the second session that leads into qualifying—the field ventured out to perform qualifying simulations on the red-banded rubber.

Helio Castroneves was first to jump up on the timing chart to go second with a 1m01.2454s to split Rahal and Rosenqvist, and from there, Palou took P1 with a 1m01.1376s lap. Rosenqvist responded seconds later with a 1m00.7936s to claim first for a brief moment before Alexander Rossi improved the lead to a 1m00.6090s. Ericsson jumped to P2 with a 1m00.7262s lap and Newgarden almost matched it in P3 with a 1m00.7262s lap.

Rahal returned to the fray with six minutes to go and took P2 with a 1m00.7031. Pagenaud displaced Rahal with a 1m00.6991s, and with four minutes on the clock, the leaders were Rossi, Pagenaud, Rahal, Ericsson, Newgarden and Rosenqvist as Castroneves nosed into the tires and struggled to find reverse. Stalling the car, the AMR team arrived on the scene to deal with the problem.

Drivers were given 1m53s to try and register another lap or two before the session met its end, but no improvements were made in the top six.


UP NEXT: Practice 2, 10 a.m. ET