Simon Pagenaud will start from 22nd in the race, assuming (as seems highly likely) that he is still sitting in for Simona de Silvestro in the HVM #78 tomorrow. De Silvestro has been sidelined by immigration problems, with reports suggesting that the "technical issue" now in the hands of lawyers is a single immigration official who refused to accept de Silvestro's reason for recent trips to Canada as being down to her profession as 'IndyCar driver.' He decided that she was using an assumed name, voided her visa and put her on a plane back to Switzerland which could put her participation even in next week's maiden Baltimore street course race in doubt.
Pagenaud just saw off Ho-Pin Tung in group 2, as Tung finally achieves his ambition of making the IndyCar grid at last - the first Chinese driver to do so. "The car handled well and I felt comfortable completing my first qualifying attempt in IndyCar," said Tung. "Tomorrow will be a big day for me making my first real IndyCar debut and I hope to make a strong run here in Sonoma."
Martin Plowman, who was fastest in the morning practice session after opting to use up a set of his limited soft compound 'red wall' tyres, didn't make it through from round 1 but still qualified a satisfying 15th position in his second IndyCar outing. Plowman explained that it was down to confidence.
"I would say, after this morning, we had the confidence going into qualifying knowing that I could extract time out of the red tyres, which was my problem at Mid-Ohio," he said, explaining why the team had opted to run the red tyres in the morning. "To get our times like that on the red tyres was a big step forward for me."
Admitting that "our realistic goal was to get into the top-12 and break into the second qualifying group," he said it was disappointing to just fall short. "We missed our progression to the second group by seven-hundredths, which is a big step forward for me from Mid-Ohio, but it's a bit frustrating for me to have missed it by that little bit here today."
Up at the front of the grid, Will Power was making it clear that he was by no means giving up on the championship fight just yet.
"We need to execute this weekend and just keep finishing ahead of Dario. It's as simple as that," he said. While Dario had a big lead right now, "that could turn around in one weekend. Obviously, if we have a bad weekend and he is 70 points ahead with four weekends to go it will be tough ... near impossible."
He added, "It's going to come down to who is going to make the least amount of mistakes" - and Power intends that to be him from here on.
Full qualifying times and positions