Can't deny I'm bummed. As I said in yesterday's blog, given how we had three Penskes, Dario and Justin in our Q1 group, we realized there was probably going to be only one spot open to progress to Q2, but I actually thought we had a good chance of it being the No. 15 Honda Canada/Make A Wish car.
OK, so everything had to go right – our setup predictions had to be spot on, I couldn't afford to make a mistake, and we needed a clear lap. But given our pace so far this weekend, I thought that was possible.
We'd had a bit too much understeer for most of the weekend, with looseness under braking for a couple of corners. So we were anticipating on reds that understeer would be worse. The way these Indy cars are with the reds, the extra grip gives you more at the rear than the front so we anticipated that and dialed in a setup to balance that out. We only have 15 minutes in Q1, so there isn't time to make any major setup changes mid-session, so we went out on blacks with the car setup for what we thought was gonna work with the reds. That made the car extremely loose on entry. I had a lot of snap oversteer in the fast corners, especially the fast chicane in the middle.
So I couldn't take the fast chicane flat and couldn't take Turn 9 flat, and you need to do both in qualifying. But like I say, we thought we'd be compensating for that once the reds were on but actually they only made it slightly better. Basically, we'd had the right idea but had overstepped the mark. I still couldn't get the maximum out of the car or myself, because it was still too oversteery. There were a couple of big moments in the fast chicane where it stepped sideways on me at turn-in.
That was that. It was always going to be difficult to get into Q2 so when you leave something on the table like that, you're doomed. So we missed it by a couple of tenths and two positions.
To be in the top six for two practice sessions, ninth in the other, and end up 15th on the grid has to be seen as disappointing, although I still stand by the logic that got us to the wrong setup; we were trying to combat a well-known characteristic for these tires. It was the same story for two of my KV Racing teammates, Mario Moraes and Takuma Sato who are going to line up just in front of me. EJ Viso got through from Q1's other group and then took it to the Firestone Fast Six, so congrats to him.
The track was in pretty slick condition today, so there were some weird things going on. Considering how KV have gone this weekend, I wouldn't have expected Matos to to keep Sato and me from progressing to Q2, and I wouldn't have expected Tony Kanaan to hit the wall on his out lap in Q1 group 2. If the Q1 groups had been spread out more normally in terms of where the fastest cars were, I think that even with our setup issue, we'd have reached the top 12. But you play by the system, and who goes in what Q1 group is decided by a blind draw, so there's nothing we can do about it.
Tomorrow we've got some pretty good cars behind us, including three of the Andretti Autosport cars, but I don't see any reason why we can't have a good race like we did last year, hopefully with a solid top-eight finish. I suppose everyone's anticipating that I'm gonna try and get past row seven on the start, as that's Moraes and Sato…We'll see. Jimmy Vasser said at a Honda dinner tonight, “Last year here, I told you guys not to screw around with each other at the start, and look what happened, so I'm not going to say anything this time around.”
My own view is that I'm the type of driver who won't hang around and if I can make positions, I'll do that, whoever's in front. That's what the green flag is for – to tell you to start racing, and I'm not prepared to sit and wait for anyone. Generally I think I'm pretty good on cold tires, so I'd be surprised if we're still only 15th at the end of lap 1.
I think I'll probably start on reds, and then it's a case of getting into the rhythm of the race and making progress wherever I can. How we get on with them will decide what tires we take for the middle of the race. Tire management will be important, as I'm more concerned right now in making sure we get a good setup for the race, and stabilizing that rear end better. Turn 1 is a good passing spot, so if I'm losing time getting onto the pit straight because I can't go quick enough through the final S-bend, then that's going to hurt our chances of passing once the field's strung out a bit.
So tomorrow morning's warm up will be crucial. Motegi Racing have come here to support me and they deserve a good showing, and so do my long-term supporters from Kicker Car Audio, CEC, AlpineStars, Oakley and Monster. I know we can give them that if we make the right decisions tomorrow, because potentially these KV cars have more pace than 13th-15th on the grid shows. I think a few people got pretty lucky with their Q1 groups today and the Honda Canada/Make A Wish car is ready to swallow them whole tomorrow.
Wish us luck. I'll give you a report after the race.P.T.