Will Power tested for Team Penske at Barber Motorsports Park on Tuesday, the first time he had driven an IndyCar since he set pole in the season-opener and then pulled out of the race.
The 2014 IndyCar champion had to withdraw from the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on the race day morning due to a stomach bug that had caused him bouts of vomiting throughout the second half of that week. His place in the #12 Dallara-Chevrolet was taken on that occasion by Indy car veteran Oriol Servia.
But today at Barber Motorsports Park, after a day that compensated for the group test he missed at the same venue last Tuesday, Power told Motorsport.com he was ready to start catching up in the championship standings.
“Yeah man, I'm ready for Phoenix,” he said. “I had no real problem today, and I wasn’t expecting there to be, honestly. The bug seems to have gone.
"It just felt good to be working with the team again," he added. "I think I said in that media conference last week, I was too ill to even do debriefs with the team at St. Pete."
However, Power was unwilling to draw comparisons with his teammates and rivals' lap times from the test last week, because of the differing track conditions.
“Depending how much rubber is down – and it makes a massive difference at Barber – and also the track temperatures, you can't really be accurate comparing between weeks. But I do know we were fast today.”
Power also declared himself impressed by the improvements in the Chevrolet aero kit from 2015 to ’16.
“If you can feel the difference at St. Pete – and we all could – you know you’re gonna feel it working at high-grip track like Barber. And yeah, we are very hooked up around here. It’s completely amazing the downforce we’ve got – more than any open-wheel car’s ever had.”
Satisfaction and adaptation
Although Power has been a strong advocate against increased downforce, and would prefer IndyCar to shed aero grip and increase engine power, he said he is satisfied a good driver can distinguish himself from an average one, at least on road and street courses.
“It’s kind of interesting because [the current aero package] makes the driver’s job harder, and I don't mean just physically,” Power observed. “Because of this huge downforce, it’s more difficult to feel the car, and what it’s doing, what the tires are doing. You've got to be very sensitive to everything.
“So on any corner that isn’t just easy wide open, you have to really know the signs of when it’s going to let go. And obviously that means we have to be even more accurate, because the faster you're going, you’ve got less chance to get it back.
“Basically as long you’re on a track where you’ve got to brake and turn and accelerate, there’s going to be a difference between drivers at the front and back of the grid. It’s still hard and all the details will count.
“On ovals, we’re going to be wide open though," he added. "And I don’t see anyone agreeing to change that. No one who could actually make it happen, anyway.”
Power also stated he was no longer chasing the ideal setup for his preferences.
“I’ve just totally adapted my driving style,” he said. “That was what I was really working on last year. So if it’s understeering, then whatever, I can deal with it. It’s just what you have to do.”