IndyCar boss delivers ‘urgent’ message to drivers

You’ve made your bed, now lie in it.

That’s the message from IndyCar Series boss Jay Frye after several drivers complained about the category’s red flag rules that changed the course of a recent qualifying session.

In a rare Q&A session, the series president responded in the wake of an incident at the Music City Grand Prix in Nashville.

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During qualifying, several drivers failed to make it out of the first group stage after a red flag was drawn with just a minute to go.

A risky strategy to leave their best effort to the closing minutes left a handful of drivers high and dry and unable to complete their respective laps.

The session did not restart, condemning Indianapolis 500 winners Simon Pagenaud and Alexander Rossi as well as Felix Rosenqvist, Colton Herta and Callum Ilott to the drop zone.

Ilott took to social media after the fact, posting “what a joke” shortly thereafter.

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Even if the session had restarted, drivers would not have had enough time to return to the track and set another lap time.

In the latter stages of qualifying – like the Firestone Fast Six – additional time is allotted in the instance of a red flag.

The same is not true for the earlier group stages of qualifying.

Pagenaud was left incensed, questioning why the rules do not allow an extra allocation of time.

“It’s such a shame because you just don’t get to perform at your level and we’re going to start again where we don’t belong and a lot of guys don’t belong up there up front,” he said.

“It’s just very frustrating to see these rules not change after all these years we’ve been telling them they should.”

However, Frye said it’s on the teams and drivers to give themselves enough time to bank a lap.

“We have guaranteed time for the Firestone Fast Six, which is good,” Frye told IndyCar.com.

“Why don’t we do that in the two earlier rounds? There are a couple of different reasons. One, we have to keep the show moving; there are other things going on at the track after us. Yes, we are the headliner , but there’s only so much time in the day, so that’s part of it.

“Historically, IndyCar had guaranteed time, and a lot of teams would sit in pit lane because there wasn’t a sense of urgency to go out in the early part of the session. You must have a sense of urgency.

“If you look at Nashville, which saw group one not get much time due to red flags, it became a clear reminder to teams: There needs to be a sense of urgency because you never know what’s going to happen.

“It’s okay to have a plan if everything runs smoothly, but sometimes it doesn’t, and you better make sure you go out and complete a banker lap to make sure you do transfer to the next round.

“Teams can do whatever they want, but that was likely a good reminder of what could happen.”

Why drivers leave their lap to the dying moments of the session comes down to track conditions.

Typically, as more laps are completed more rubber is laid down on the course and the circuit gets faster.

Weather conditions can also be more favorable later in a session if cloud cover comes over the track.

Frye said he does not see any need to change the rules.

“Interesting fact: In the 11 years of qualifying in the current format, we have only had 10 occasions where we had multiple red flags in a session,” said Frye.

“So, it doesn’t happen that often. Yes, it happened in Nashville, and we don’t like it because we like to keep going and have the fans get a great show, but we have a procedure for a reason. They need to have a sense of urgency moving forward.”

The IndyCar Series continues at Portland International Raceway for the penultimate round of the 2022 season.

Will Power leads Team Penske stablemate Josef Newgarden by three points while Scott Dixon of Chip Ganassi Racing lies third.

The Grand Prix of Portland gets underway at 5am AEST on Monday, September 5.

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