NASHVILLE — Romain Grosjean is not worried about the rest of the Andretti Autosport squad ahead of Sunday’s Music City Grand Prix on the streets of Nashville after bad luck befell his teammates.
After a 90-minute delay for thunderstorms and lightning, the Swiss-born Frenchman qualified second fastest behind polesitter Scott McLaughlin. The No. 28 Honda went around the 11-turn, 2.1-mile circuit in 1 minute, 14.6975 seconds to average 101.208 mph.
Grosjean was in the top 10 in both practice sessions (10th on Friday, seventh on Saturday) and credited some setup changes with his increase in performance.
“Thanks to my boys because they’ve been working really hard recently,” Grosjean said at the post-qualifying press conference.. “It just feels bloody good to have some fun back behind the wheel, being able to do what I like. We ended up not too far from our street course package and philosophy, so that’s pretty positive.
“Really yesterday was funny because we made that change. One driver would say, I have a good front end now. We looked at the data, it’s the same. We brought it to a good place. I got the confidence going into the corner from the front, the front has to turn. Obviously on a street course, that makes a huge difference.”
Grosjean advanced from the second group in round one of qualifying with the fourth fastest time. In round two, Grosjean was third fastest to advance to the Firestone Fast Six.
Meanwhile, the rest of Andretti Autosport had issues in the first group of round one.
Colton Herta, Alexander Rossi and Devlin DeFrancesco were in that group and impacted each other during the session. With under seven and a half minutes remaining in the 10-minute session, DeFrancesco had a problem in Turn 4. The Canadian stalled the No. 29 Honda, leading to race control calling for a red flag.
With just over a minute left for the group, Herta hit the end of the Turn 4 tire barrier, damaging the front wing. The Californian stalled the No. 26 Honda, bringing out a red flag that ended that group’s running.
Here’s another look at what happened to Colton Herta.
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Both drivers lost their two best laps in the session as a consequence for bringing out the red flag. That penalty placed Herta and DeFrancesco respectively in 23rd and 25th on the grid. At the time of the collision, Herta was fifth fastest and could have advanced to round two.
Much like the majority of that group, Rossi was quicker than group leader Alex Palou’s best lap at that point. Instead of advancing, the No. 27 Honda will start 17th.
Rossi briskly walked back to the Andretti Autosport transporters without any comment. At the same time, Herta spoke to NBC’s Dave Burns on pit road.
“That was just a little bit too ambitious for what the conditions were,” Herta said. “I think after it rained, a lot of that grip kind of fell away, and just trying to find the right braking point and I just overdid it.
“You know, It’s hard when you put on these (alternate compound tires) and they’re one lap, two lap tires, you really have to get after it. So yeah, I apologize to my team, especially to Andretti because I think I probably screwed over Rossi there pretty good, too, and probably a few other guys. I don’t try and do that on purpose and it was really an honest mistake so I feel bad for everybody involved.”
Grosjean saw everything from pit road and knew the situation before having his chance to qualify.
“The other ones got really unlucky,” Grosjean told TobyChristie.com “There was the red flag from Devlin and then Alex was on a good lap when Colton created a red flag, so they were unlucky, but they were fast.”
Live coverage for the Music City Grand Prix starts on NBC at 3:00 p.m. ET with the race scheduled to start 30 minutes later.