Alex Palou started Qualifying day in the best possible style after topping the times in the second Practice session for tomorrow’s Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.
The second and final Practice session before Qualifying at Laguna Seca would be critical for the championship contenders. One mistake could ruin any chance of securing pole position, with sunshine giving way to cloudy, cooler conditions as the 26 runners and riders slowly left the pits.
After just over nine minutes had gone in the session, the red flag was brought out following Graham Rahal’s spin at the Corkscrew, with Rahal’s car having to be pushed for him to get back to the pits.
Rookie trio Callum Ilott, David Malukas, and Christian Lundgaard set the pace in the session’s opening minutes, with the Brit the fastest of the three after banking a 1:11.9899.
The red flag was out again at just past the 23-minute mark, with Pato O’Ward the next to go off, losing the rear of his Arrow McLaren into Turn 10 and beaching his number five machine in the gravel trap, fortunately without causing any damage.
When the session restarted, Ilott remained in front, but not until Alexander Rossi produced a 1:11.9813 to go to the top, with Romain Grosjean moving into third with a time of 1:12.1568 as teams switched to Qualifying trim.
With less than ten minutes to go, outgoing champion Palou went quickest, setting a 1:11.3847 as the big players began to show their hand.
But Palou remained quickest when the chequered flag fell, with Rossi second ahead of championship contenders Will Power and Josef Newgarden. Two-time Laguna Seca winner Colton Herta finished the session fifth, whilst Scott Dixon rounded off the top six.
Lundgaard was seventh fastest ahead of Pagenaud and early pacesetter Illot, with Malukas completing the top 10. Outside championship contenders Scott McLaughlin and Marcus Ericsson finished the session 14th and 20th quickest, respectively.