Marcus Ericsson heads into this weekend’s NTT IndyCar Series finale needing to bridge a 39-point gap to championship leader Will Power, but the Swede believes the tricky conditions that greeted the field for Friday’s opening practice session at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca will work in his favor.
The combination of Laguna’s slippery surface and some fragile soft-compound Firestones made for an afternoon punctuated by frequent clouds of dust as drivers overstepped the margins – including Ericsson himself, who dropped a couple of tires into the dirt early in his run. But the driver of the No. 8 Chip Ganassi Honda said he welcomes the prospect of rapidly fading rubber for Sunday’s race.
“I’m hoping it’s going to be a high-deg race, and it seems to be that way,” he said. “Usually our team — and myself from my experience — we’re usually pretty good at that. The tires seemed to degrade quite quickly here. It was the same in the test (two weeks ago) and the same today in practice.
“In the race, as a driver, you have to think about it and sort of figure out a way to get the stint length that you are planning. It’s going to be quite tricky, I think. Depends a bit on the weather, as well. Some colder weather seems to be coming in, and that might change things — make the tires last a bit better.
“But at least from what I saw today, I think it’s going to be quite a tricky race for all of us, and also people are going off left, right, center, and there’s sand on the track, and it’s quite tricky to run lap to lap, to stay on track, because it’s so challenging out there.”
Ericsson finished Friday’s session 10th fastest and best of the four Ganassi cars. Teammate and fellow championship contender Scott Dixon was just under 0.3s slower and 17th fastest, and said that the team had made some changes to the No. 9 that didn’t pay off.
“We came with a pretty different setup than what we did at the test,” he said. “We just wanted to try a few different things. We could see that the No. 8 car already backed up on some of those, so it looked like he moved in a positive direction. We’ll work out of here and see what we can make out of it. It’s going to be a pretty high [degradation] race.”