“Firestone Fast Six” Qualifying Results (mph): 1. Will Power (105.870); 2. Takuma Sato (105.2333); 3. Simona de Silvestro (104.910); 4. James Hinchfliffe (104.816); 5. Helio Castroneves (104.686); 6. Tristan Vautier (104.408).
Firestone qualifying highlight: Will Power collected his fourth consecutive pole position for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg by employing the popular strategy of running on the red-sidewall Firestone Firehawk alternate tires in each session of qualifying. Power ran new alternate sets for the first two segments and put back on a used set of Firehawk alternates for the Firestone Fast Six segment. Firestone’s primary (black-sidewall) tire for this weekend is nearly identical to the primary from a year ago. The alternate (red-sidewall) tire features a higher-grip (“softer”) tread compound to hopefully increase the performance gap between the two specs. That’s expected to make the Firestone alternates faster than before, but potentially trading off some durability in exchange. With rain in the forecast for Sunday, Firestone also has its grooved wet-condition tires at the ready.
From pole winner Will Power, #12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone: “It’s a very good start to the season. It’s been difficult to get the balance of the car this weekend, but I’ve seen everyone else has been struggling, too. For us, the car ran better on used Firestone red tires in that final session. It’s really difficult to get this car right. You have to drive it loose because it has so much push. We changed through every session today, and we’ve never done that in qualifying before, but still we put the Verizon car P1. It always seems to be that you go quicker on old tires. I think it’s the way that the track is and that you (already) have some temperature in the tires when you go out. We had that last year, too. We don’t have tire warmers like Formula One and the tire is at its best when it’s up to temps. The car was very good and definitely better on used Firestones for us, definitely.”
From Al Speyer, Executive Director, Firestone Racing: “Will Power has become Mr. Cool when it comes to qualifying at St. Pete. Four pole positions in as many years is a most impressive feat. Will and his Penske crew have certainly figured out how to master control of their Firestone alternate tires for qualifying. It is also inspiring to see some fresh faces like Simona de Silvestro and Tristan Vautier in the Firestone Fast Six. The question in the minds of many is how these softer Firehawk alternates will stand up to a race stint tomorrow, or more precisely, which drivers’ tire management skills are the best. Weather could play a factor as well, so it all adds up to a most exciting IZOD IndyCar Series debut. We are ready no matter what happens.”