With the exception of Josef Newgarden, the current leader by a wide margin, the aces made three stops at last year’s 95-lap Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey. But this year’s alternate [softer compound] The Firestone tire has more grip but also degrades more quickly.
Team Penske-Chevrolet championship leader Will Power said he thought the track was a little tougher on the tires this year because the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship didn’t race here the week before, like they did in 2021, so that there was less rubber below.
Although he said he considered the tire degradation “similar to how it has been”, he agreed that Sunday’s race could be a four-stop race.
“Yes, that’s definitely possible, there’s enough degradation for that,” he said. “We’ll have to see in the warm-up when you actually do a full race… but yeah.”
Power lamented the fact that teams are not getting more sets of tires.
“We have asked, we continue to ask,” he shrugged. “We would race if they gave us more tyres, but no… We tried. We tried a month ago. They just don’t.”
Despite being fastest by four-tenths of a second, Newgarden described it as “a tricky session” due to several spins and wheel drops on the curbs.
“There were a lot of people coming out, there was a lot of dirt on the track, so it was quite difficult to put it together,” said the 2017 and 2019 champion. “So it’s not a very easy session.
“But I think it’s very productive in many ways. It’s not a lot of racing, and you’re trying to get the most out of just a couple of races, and I felt like we did that, so I was happy about that. But obviously the first few days of the weekend for us and the Hitachi car.
Penske’s third driver, Scott McLaughlin, said he was “upset and sad” that Laguna Seca will be resurfaced in two months.
“I think the pace will pick up, obviously, but it’s going to be interesting when this resurgence is over and when we get here, because a place like this degrades over time,” said the Kiwi, who has posted three wins in his second IndyCar season. “There are a lot of cars that race at this track outside of our series, so I think it all depends on when people race and how many people race here, but I think it will definitely be better in some ways.
“[But] I’m actually really enjoying the way you have to drive the car. I’m kind of sad that they’re going to reappear because it’s kind of fun, and you really have to think about the tone of the car and what you’re doing with the car and things like that.
“Yes, it is what it is, and the resurfacing will be good for the longevity of the track, but I’d like to keep racing the old stuff.”
Former Formula 1 driver Marcus Ericsson said the race could work in his favour, given his experience driving the delicate Pirellis in grands prix.
“Yes, I expect it to be a high level race, and it seems to be,” he smiled. “Usually our team and I, based on my experience, are usually pretty good at it. Yeah, the tires seemed to degrade pretty quickly here. It was the same in the test and the same today in practice…
“I think you have to think about it and find a way to get the length of the period that you are planning. It’s going to be quite complicated, I think. Depending a bit on the weather, too. It looks like it will come in cooler weather, and that could change things, make the tires last a little bit better.
“But at least from what I saw today, I think it’s going to be a pretty tough race for all of us, and also people drift left, right, center, and there’s sand on the track, and it’s pretty difficult to run lap by lap, to stay the course, because it’s so challenging.