2012 IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay has expressed his disappointment at how far off the pace he feels the Andretti Autosport-Honda package is compared with the best of the Chevrolets.
The #28 reached the Firestone Fast Six, but Hunter-Reay’s best time in Q3 was some 0.65sec slower than pole time.
He told Motorsport.com: “We do not have the sweet spot right now. We pulled out a lap or two there that put us sixth on the grid, but man, we have work to do.”
He went on: “I’m not worried about the horsepower. HPD is doing a great job in the engine department. I’m more worried about overall grip and how to make the tires last.
“If you have a slight imbalance, it’s going to be magnified, especially here. The way we had to set up the car in qualifying would make it wicked loose in race trim. We need to find a happy medium, but I don't know if it's going to be enough.”
Last year’s early-season struggle for most Honda teams was ascribed to the pitch sensitivity of the Wirth-designed aero kit, a problem that Hunter-Reay says is cured and far improved with this year's in-house Honda-designed kit.
He explained: “This one is more predictable, it doesn’t throw the driver a lot of surprises that way, so that’s good. When you come to a corner, brake really late and then snap off the brake, you know what it’s going to do so you can hustle the car.
“It’s not going to snap loose on you and then go to big understeer. For now, it does just one thing – which is go to big understeer.”
Hunter-Reay said the Sebring test at the start of the month had given some hints at a performance struggle, but they had been confirmed through practice and qualifying at St. Petersburg.
“It’s a new package and at Sebring we were dialing it in, but Sebring is Sebring and St. Pete and is a completely different animal.
“But we still have more drag. Phoenix [oval] was one thing, but even at Sebring we saw the difference. Chevy's numbers on the straight, and their relative wing angle told us they have the efficiency game down.
“We might be closer, than it looks at the moment, I don’t know. But it took us half a year to figure out the last aero kit. Hopefully this one will be a shorter science project.”