Schmidt Peterson Motorsports rookie Tristan Vautier rose above his rookie status today when he raced his way into the Firestone Fast Six during his debut IZOD IndyCar Series qualifying session in front of his adopted hometown crowd.
Following three rounds of knockout style qualifying, Vautier will start sixth for Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. His best lap time was 1:02.0645 around the 14-turn, 1.8-mile temporary street circuit. Will Power earned the top spot for Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg with a time of 1:01.2070, followed by Takuma Sato (1:01.5776) and Simona de Silvestro (1:01.7670).
Driving the No. 55 Florida Lottery c/w Schmidt Peterson Dallara/Honda/Firestone car, Vautier shocked the field by systematically turning laps quick enough to advance to the Firestone Fast Six Shootout.
“I was a little nervous for qualifying because the last practice wasn’t great for me, and I didn’t really know what to expect from the qualifying format,” Vautier said. “I just tried to take it one step at a time.”
In Round 1, Vautier was sixth quickest of the group with a time of 1:02.0138. Then in Round 2, Vautier found himself in the sixth position with a lap time of 1:01.6631. During the Firestone Fast Six, Vautier was again sixth quickest of the group at 1:02.0645.
Despite his solid qualifying effort, Vautier is keeping his focus on the task ahead tomorrow in his debut IZOD IndyCar Series race.
“I have to be more consistent tomorrow, and tonight I’ve really got to focus on how we’re going to save tires,” Vautier said. “The longer runs and pit stops are going to be new for me and I obviously have to make sure I avoid the mechanics and tires when I park for a pit stop!”
Simon Pagenaud, driving the No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Dallara/Honda/Firestone car, reported to the team that he had throttle cable issues during his qualifying session. Pagenaud’s best lap was 1:02.4736, which positioned him in the 19th spot for Sunday’s 110-lap race.
“We had some control issues on the throttle during qualifying,” Pagenaud said. “Last year we started 16th with an engine change and this year we are stronger. I believe that the tough moments make us stronger. We’ve had a difficult weekend but I’m very happy with the handling of the car. I hope we have a strong race and put on a good show for the fans.”
Pagenaud and Vautier will take the green flag for the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, March 24. Live coverage of the race begins at noon on NBC Sports Network.
For real-time updates from the No. 77 and No. 55 cars, follow @SPMIndyCar on Twitter.