Perhaps it should be no surprise that the 2012 Star Mazda champion should be fast in his rookie season in the Verizon IndyCar Series, but even so no one was expecting Jack Hawksworth to be lining up on the front row of the grid in only his fourth outing.
"I'm actually quite excited," said the 23-year-old from Bradford in a classic case of understatement. "I think the car is very good. We have a clear track ahead. If we can get Saavedra at the first corner, we'll try and pull away, see what we can do."
Admittedly, Hawksworth was helped in consolidating his second place in qualifying by the appearance of the red flag that came out toward the end of round 3 for Ryan Hunter-Reay aquaplaning into the wall at turn 14.
"I think everybody had a lot more on the table," agreed Hawksworth. "I think the fastest lap was going to be on the last lap. Everybody was pretty quick."
As for the achievement of the Bryan Herta Autosport team seeing off the challenge of far bigger rivals, Hawksworth said that their single-car status could be as much of a help as a drawback in practice.
"I think it has its pros and cons. In some ways it's good, get through the politics," he suggested. "To be honest, I'm working very well with the team. They're giving me what I want. I think I'm able to kind of lead them in the right direction with the car, as well.
"I'm not too worried about not having a teammate. I kind of like it," he said, adding that the presence of team co-owner Bryan Herta made a big difference to what the team was able to do. "Bryan is awesome. He's experienced. He's got the T-shirt, been there, won races. Always good to bounce ideas off him. He's always there giving advice to myself on driving. Also he understands the feelings which perhaps sometimes I have with the car. He can relate to that. Yeah, it's a good relationship. It really helps for sure."
Qualifying proved less successful for Hawksworth's fellow Britons Justin Wilson, Martin Plowman and Mike Conway, none of whom survived their first round elimination groups.
“The car felt pretty good although there was a bit of an issue with the brakes,” said Wilson, who will be starting his 100th IndyCar Series race from 18th place on the grid on Saturday. "A different wheel every brake zone would lock up, so it was constantly changing every lap. It was difficult to keep up with what was happening and I couldn't quite push the brake zones all the way to the limit. But we will just keep working and see what happens tomorrow.”
“The balance of the car was good, so I'm disappointed to get knocked out,” he admitted. "But obviously we just need to do an even better job. The car felt nice, so I am not sure how much we gave up with the braking issue. It is going to make for an interesting race. I'm going to be coming up from the back and aiming to be up front."
As for Plowman, 20th place was probably as good as he could have hoped for in his first IndyCar race since 2011 in Baltimore, and in some of the trickiest conditions the series can face.
"Overall I think to be right on pace with [AJ Foyt Racing team mate] Takuma [Sato] with no experience is not a bad result, but of course we would both like to be further up the field," he said. "I think if we put together all of the small details, we could have been in the top 12, but we'll save that for tomorrow when it really matters.
"It was a fun but tough first qualifying for us as it was the first time that I've used the Firestone red tyres, so I didn't have any time to learn what the limit was of these tyres," Plowman added "I felt like we missed the balance of the car a little bit, which hurt me by a couple of tenths."
The most disappointed Brit in the paddock was undoubtedly Mike Conway, who after his win for Ed Carpenter Racing at Long Beach has been struggling to find anything like a competitive pace in either qualifying or race trim. He'll start this weekend's race from 24th place on the grid after another disappointing day at the office at Indianapolis.
"It was a tough day for us. We are struggling to get the grip level right now. We thought we had some things figured out at the test, but it didn't work out," he admitted. "We did improve the car from yesterday, but we have been behind and it's tough trying to catch up.
"I think we could have used a dry session [Friday] morning to help make the car a little better, but it didn't work out that way," he sighed. "The conditions today were changing all of the time. We still have some work to do for the race. We'll sit down and go over the data tonight and see what direction will be best for the race.
"With no warm-up on Saturday, I think a lot of people will have some unknowns entering the race," he added.