An incident in qualifying for the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix has incensed several IndyCar drivers who felt they were hard done by.
Qualifying at the Nashville Street Circuit was a frenetic affair, punctuated by a clumsy incident in Group 1.
A mistake by Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta saw the pre-event favourite clout the wall and damage his front wing.
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With his car parked awkwardly at the apex, the red flag was quickly drawn with one minute remaining in the session.
A risky strategy by several drivers to leave their best effort to the closing minutes left a handful of drivers high and dry and unable to complete their respective laps.
The session would not restart, cementing them in the drop zone.
At the time of the incident, Alex Palou led the group over Jack Harvey, David Malukas and Josef Newgarden. Herta held fifth just in front of Rinus VeeKay.
For the incident, Herta was stripped of his best lap and dropped to the rear of the group, allowing Dalton Kellett to advance.
Among those to miss out were IndyCar champion and Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud, Felix Rosenqvist, and Herta’s teammate Alexander Rossi.
“Man I’m so frustrated, that is not the sport, man,” said Pagenaud, who will start the 80-lap race in 13th.
“Toronto is exactly the same thing. We can wait all day for the storm to pass but then they don’t give us enough time to put our lap down. It’s just unbelievable.
“I did one lap on reds [soft compound tyres]. It’s just… yeah, I’m speechless.
“It’s such a shame because you just don’t get to perform at your level and we’re going to start again where we don’t belong and a lot of guys don’t belong up there up front.
“It’s just very frustrating to see these rules not change after all these years we’ve been telling them they should.”
Another victim of the incident, Callum Ilott, made his feelings known on social media, posting “what a joke” shortly thereafter.
After another user suggested he set a time earlier in the session, he replied, “Yeah I will just go and get my degree in fortune telling as well whilst I’m at it”.
Felix Rosenqvist expressed his frustration too, bemoaning the unrealised last flying lap that he said would have advanced him to the second stage of qualifying.
“Just annoying,” he said.
“I didn’t even have a lap and it just seems weird. We had kind of a warm-up lap on reds.
“I guess that one is something we should look at, maybe should have just gone straight out of the pits and do a lap.
“It’s annoying when it’s always red flags and you can’t get the session going. Anyway, we’ll try to go through the field tomorrow.”
Speaking on the incident, Herta said he was trying too hard.
“That was just a little bit too ambitious for what the conditions were,” said Herta.
“I think after it rained, a lot of that grip fell away. Just trying to find the right braking point, I overdid it.
“It’s hard when you put on these reds and they’re one-lap, two-lap tyres and you really have to get after it.
“I apologised to my team, especially to Andretti because I probably screwed over Rossi there pretty good too and probably a few other guys.
“I don’t try to do that on purpose and it’s really an honest mistake. So I feel bad for everybody involved.”
The Big Machine Music City Grand Prix is live, ad-free and exclusively on Stan Sport from Monday at 5am.
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