Sato earns Verizon P1 Award for Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

Uncategorized — By on March 29, 2014 10:26 pm


JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda): “I made sure that the 27 crew has our work cut out for us, that’s for sure. Really mad at myself. Conditions were obviously tricky, but I just lost it. It’s a real shame because the guys have done such a good job, we were quick in the dry, quick in the wet until my spin, the United Fiber & Data Honda deserved to be higher up today. But when the going gets tough, the tough get it done anyway. We’ve got the pace so hopefully some good strategy will see us come good tomorrow.”

MIKHAIL ALESHIN (No. 7 SMP Racing Honda): “We definitely had speed but the conditions were difficult in the qualifying session. Before qualifying I had never really gotten a chance to drive the car on a wet track or with the rain tires. It was hard for me to understand the level of the grip. At the same time we had red and yellow flags so I only got to do one lap at full speed. Starting 16th shouldn’t be a problem, but when you’re that far back in the pack it’s important to be very mindful of the other drivers around you. Some drivers are very aggressive back there when some people think you can win the race in the first corner. It’s a long race though and we have a good set-up. We’ll stay positive and make sure we progress throughout the race.”

JUSTIN WILSON (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): “We had some shifting problems – it wouldn’t up shift very well so I was struggling with that. We got one timed lap out of the tires before they went off so we have to work out why that is so we can look after them if we need to. The track conditions were changing the whole time, it was drying out but we had already overheated the tires at that point. It’s tricky in those kind of conditions and your first lap out there is your quickest by half a second. It’s weird because you start to push a little bit more in the session but the tires were not there. It’s just how it goes. I’m disappointed with 16th but hopefully we can get the car good in warm up and come back through the field tomorrow.”

JACK HAWKSWORTH (No. 98 Charter / Castrol Edge): “Good qualifying under tricky conditions. We were on rain tires in the beginning to get through the first segment. Then we were initially very quick in the second segment, although I thought we were going to get through but I made a little mistake at the end. If we could do it again, we could be a little bit higher but overall, I can’t complain today for my first IndyCar qualification.”

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet): “It was a little bit tough out there but the Hitachi Team Penske Chevy was really fast. I had no reference point in some areas so it made it challenging and it was a little wet for me in Turn 5 especially. We came up a little short to advance into the Firestone Fast Six and we have a little bit of work to do tomorrow. But I can’t wait. I have Roger (Penske) on my side with the strategy and the Hitachi guys will be strong. It should be a really exciting race to start the season here in St. Pete.”

SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports Honda): “This wasn’t the result the No. 77 car is capable of. We started off really strong in the wet but the track dried very quickly. We weren’t expecting the conditions to change that quickly so in the end we couldn’t improve our lap time even though the track was drying. It’s a shame that we didn’t have it in the end. I think we were expecting more red flags to happen as well which would have given us more of an opportunity to make adjustments as we found that we needed them like different tire pressures and tires. There were a lot of factors that ended up working against us today but we still have a long day tomorrow and starting 13th isn’t that bad. We can come back from that and fight for a good position during the race tomorrow.”

CARLOS MUNOZ (No. 34 Cinsay Andretti HVM): “It was a fine, fine qualifying. We started the session on rain tires and then changed to slicks (Firestone Reds). We were out of the top six by less than one-tenth of a second. Anyways, I think seventh is a good position to start tomorrow. My main goal is to stay there the whole race, try not to make any mistakes and just take it step by step.”

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 2 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet): “The biggest problem for the No. 2 Verizon Chevy was the last corner, for some reason. I just couldn’t come off that corner and get the car to turn. (Takuma) Sato was in front of me and I would lose everything to him right there. It is what it is. I haven’t driven in wet conditions in a long time and we never had an opportunity to do it in testing. I don’t think we’re that far off. I’m still getting acclimated back to the Verizon IndyCar Series. My team is still getting acclimated to me. If that process was complete we would be a lot better. We are definitely making progress.”

JOSEF NEWGARDEN (No. 67 Florida Lottery/SFH Racing Honda): “We had a tough qualifying today. Not the way you want to start the year obviously, but it’s very early in the game and Sunday is where the money is paid out. We just have to be as prepared as we can for the race. We have to put our head down and get re-focused for tomorrow.”

TONY KANAAN (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet): “I think it has been like 3 years since I have been in the Top 6. It feels really good , I can’t thank the Target Chip Ganassi Racing guys enough. A lot of people made a lot of comments over the years because we struggled so much in qualifying in street and road courses and nobody was counting on that. I like to be the element of surprise. Nobody was talking about us at Indy last year and nobody was talking about this weekend. Although this is not even half of the battle because this is qualifying. Front Row, man it feels pretty good! I used to see 16 or 17 cars in front of me in a circuit like that so it feels pretty good. I am happy. It is a new team and those guys had a heck of a year last year and a huge disappointment on Dario’s accident and I still feel like this is Dario’s car. Those guys went through a lot and they gave me a lot of credibility when I replaced Dario. They made me feel extremely comfortable and although we have only been working together for the three or four months, I feel part of it. Every one of them is part of this front row for me.

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