Sao Paulo - Qualifying times
28 April 2012
As is the norm for road and street races, qualifying consisted of half the field running in the 15 minute Group 1 and the other half in Group 2. The top six from each group progressed to the ten minute Top 12 session, with the top six from that round then going through to the pole shoot-out Firestone Fast Six.
Round 1 Group 1
Group 1 consisted of Will Power, Scott Dixon, James Hinchcliffe, Justin Wilson, Simon Pagenaud, Marco Andretti, Rubens Barrichello, JR Hildebrand, Tony Kanaan, Simona de Silvestro, Sebastien Bourdais, Ana Beatriz and Katherine Legge.
Beatriz was first out to make the most of the deserted track, steadily improving with each lap to set an early benchmark of 1:23.9145s on red (soft option) tyres. The rest of the cars sat idle for the first seven minutes but then proceeded to head out en mass. Justin Wilson went top with a time of 1:22.8483s with a little over five minutes remaining and James Hinchcliffe slotting into second four tenths behind before promptly overrunning his next pass through turn 1.
Wilson improved to 1:22.3033s as it seemed that the tyres needed a good three laps to get up to their best performance, before Scott Dixon and Will Power took over at the top with the Ganassi's lap of 1:21.7138 a shade under three tenths faster than the Penske.
In the final minutes the Penske driver slammed in a lap of 1:21.6133s to go safely top, after which he joined Dixon in an early retreat to pit lane, confident that the job was done. James Hinchcliffe popped up into third place ahead of Wilson, with Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti also making the top six to progress into round 2.
Unfortunately for the local fans, Rubens Barrichello was not able to move forward, finishing just outside in seventh place despite pushing incredibly hard on his final run and even brushing the outside of turn 9 with the rear wheel of the KV Racing technology car.
1. Will Power Penske-Chevrolet 111.864mph 1:21.613s (4 laps)
2. Scott Dixon Ganassi-Honda 111.727mph 1:21.714s + 0.101s (3 laps)
3. James Hinchcliffe Andretti-Chevrolet 111.415mph 1:21.942s + 0.329s (5 laps)
4. Justin Wilson Dale Coyne-Honda 111.346mph 1:21.993s + 0.380s (7 laps)
5. Tony Kanaan KV Racing-Chevrolet 110.84mph 1:22.367s + 0.754s (5 laps)
6. Marco Andretti Andretti-Chevrolet 110.837mph 1:22.370s + 0.756s (5 laps)
7. Rubens Barrichello KV Racing-Chevrolet 110.804mph 1:22.394s + 0.781s (5 laps)
8. JR Hildebrand Panther-Chevrolet 110.753mph 1:22.432s + 0.819s (5 laps)
9. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt-Hamilton-Honda 110.749mph 1:22.435s + 0.822s (5 laps)
10. Sebastien Bourdais Dragon-Lotus 109.819mph 1:23.133s + 1.520s (5 laps)
11. Ana Beatriz Andretti-Chevrolet 109.64mph 1:23.269s + 1.656s (9 laps)
12. Simona de Silvestro HVM-Lotus 109.106mph 1:23.676s + 2.063s (5 laps)
13. Katherine Legge Dragon-Lotus 107.91mph 1:24.604s + 2.991s (6 laps)
Round 1 Group 2
Group 2 consisted of Dario Franchitti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Ryan Briscoe, Mike Conway, Josef Newgarden, EJ Viso, Helio Castroneves, Graham Rahal, James Jakes, Charlie Kimball, Takuma Sato, Oriol Servia and Ed Carpenter.
There were no early takers at all for the empty track for the first few minutes of the 15-minute session, until finally Ed Carpenter went out with a little under ten minutes remaining closely followed by James Jakes and then gradually the others grudgingly roused themselves to follow them out on track before the mid-session mark.
Jakes just held on to an early tank-slapper on his first flying run and then overran turn 1 on his second, while Charlie Kimball set the first decent laptime of 1:23.9014 which was quickly eclipsed by Ryan Hunter-Reay's lap of 1:22.7666 as the tyres started to get up to temperature.
Mike Conway popped to the top with a lap of 1:22.3188s with a little over four minutes remaining, and then Josef Newgarden was the first to duck under the 1:22s mark with a lap of 1:21.8607 ahead of Ryan Briscoe and Dario Franchittti as the serious runners set the times tumbling.
Franchitti knocked the rookie off the top with his next lap achieving 1:21.5667s and then headed to the pits with his job done and eager to get ready for round 2 which followed immediately afterwards. Hunter-Reay leapt up to second place with his final flying lap ahead of Newgarden and Conway also shot up to fourth ahead of Briscoe and Rahal.
Once again, the local fans had to face disappointment as Helio Castroneves didn't make it round to the start/finish line in time for a final run before the chequered flag was shown, leaving him mired down in a disappointing 10th place and some way off making the cut.
Takuma Sato did not take part in the group as scheduled because of his earlier engine failure in practice 2. Even if he had, he would have got a ten-place grid penalty for the unscheduled engine change and likely have started out on the back row in any case.
1. Dario Franchitti Ganassi-Honda 111.928mph 1:21.567s (3 laps)
2. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti-Chevrolet 111.716mph 1:21.721s + 0.155s (5 laps)
3. Josef Newgarden SFHR-Honda 111.526mph 1:21.861s + 0.294s (5 laps)
4. Mike Conway AJ Foyt-Honda 111.339mph 1:21.998s + 0.431s (6 laps)
5. Ryan Briscoe Penske-Chevrolet 111.322mph 1:22.010s + 0.444s (5 laps)
6. Graham Rahal Ganassi-Honda 111.231mph 1:22.078s + 0.511s (6 laps)
7. EJ Viso Andretti-Chevrolet 111.146mph 1:22.140s + 0.574s (5 laps)
8. Charlie Kimball Ganassi-Honda 111.069mph 1:22.197s + 0.631s (6 laps)
9. James Jakes Dale Coyne-Honda 110.818mph 1:22.384s + 0.817s (6 laps)
10. Helio Castroneves Penske-Chevrolet 110.777mph 1:22.414s + 0.848s (5 laps)
11. Ed Carpenter ECR-Chevrolet 110.072mph 1:22.942s + 1.376s (7 laps)
12. Oriol Servia Dreyer & Reinbold-Lotus 109.401mph 1:23.451s + 1.884s (6 laps)
13. Takuma Sato Rahal Letterman Lanigan-Honda No time
Round 2 - Top 12
The twelve drivers through from round 1 were Will Power, Scott Dixon, James Hinchcliffe, Justin Wilson, Tony Kanaan and Marco Andretti from group 1, and Dario Franchitti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Josef Newgarden, Mike Conway, Ryan Briscoe and Graham Rahal from group 2 - making it a six-all draw between Honda and Chevrolet cars at this stage.
With the session length now down to ten minutes, there was only a minute's wait before Justin Wilson set out to put in his qualifying laps before the track got too busy. Even before he completed his first flying laps, the pits were roused and the rest of the field started to emerge.
Wilson's first lap was a decent 1:23.4996s but clearly the times would rapidly tumble from there: Wilson's own follow-up lap wiped out nearly two seconds and set an impressive new benchmark of 1:21.7994s for the rest of the drivers to shoot for.
Will Power was certainly pushing, and ended up sideways and locked up in the bumpy rundown to turn 11 on his first serious lap. That allowed Dario Franchitti the opportunity to go top of the timings with a lap of 1:21.5987s ahead of Wilson with Conway, Hinchcliffe and Hunter-Reay next up with two minutes to go.
But that was just the start of the fiercest moments of competition so far, with Will Power popping into second behind Franchitti on his next run and then James Hinchcliffe (1:21.5856s) and Scott Dixon (1:21.5869s) besting them both to briefly take the top two spots. Power promptly went faster still to set a lap of 1:21.2718 that was clearly going to be the fastest of the round, at which point he headed to pit lane: job done.
Hinchliffe, Dixon and Franchitti were also safe, and Wilson shaved his time a little more to secure fifth place ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay, while Graham Rahal was just the wrong side of the cut along with Mike Conway and Josef Newgarden.
Ryan Briscoe and Marco Andretti also failed to make it through, and there was a final disappointment for the local Brazilian crowd when Tony Kanan also failed to make it through, the only driver in the session unable to dip under the 1:22s mark.
1. Will Power Penske-Chevrolet 112.334mph 1:21.272s (4 laps)
2. James Hinchcliffe Andretti-Chevrolet 111.902mph 1:21.586s + 0.314s (4 laps)
3. Scott Dixon Ganassi-Honda 111.9mph 1:21.587s + 0.315s (4 laps)
4. Dario Franchitti Ganassi-Honda 111.884mph 1:21.599s + 0.327s (5 laps)
5. Justin Wilson Dale Coyne-Honda 111.693mph 1:21.739s + 0.467s (6 laps)
6. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti-Chevrolet 111.646mph 1:21.773s + 0.501s (5 laps)
7. Graham Rahal Ganassi-Honda 111.604mph 1:21.803s + 0.532s (5 laps)
8. Mike Conway AJ Foyt-Honda 111.592mph 1:21.812s + 0.540s (5 laps)
9. Josef Newgarden SFHR-Honda 111.591mph 1:21.813s + 0.541s (5 laps)
10. Ryan Briscoe Penske-Chevrolet 111.541mph 1:21.850s + 0.578s (5 laps)
11. Marco Andretti Andretti-Chevrolet 111.541mph 1:21.850s + 0.578s (5 laps)
12. Tony Kanaan KV Racing-Chevrolet 110.634mph 1:22.521s + 1.249s (5 laps)
Round 3 - Firestone Fast Six
The final six drivers left in contention were Will Power, James Hinchcliffe, Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Justin Wilson and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Again, and for the first time this season, the parity in engine manufacturer presence was maintained with three teams apiece, although the relative positions within the top six suggested a slight edge continuing for the Chevy stable, at least at Sao Paulo.
With just the top six drivers now left in the running, no one was in any mood to rush out onto the track. Ryan Hunter-Reay finally led the way with around seven and a half minutes remaining, followed closely by Justin Wilson. The rest waited another 90 seconds before following their lead, leaving them just six minutes to post their respective claims for pole position.
Wilson set the first decent time with a lap of 1:22.6767s and reduced that to 1:22.2681s next time around, but that was soon bested by Franchitti with a lap of 1:22.1814s. That dropped to 1:21.5407s next time around, but Will Power effortlessly topped all those with a lap of 1:21.4045s. Franchitti closed the gap between himself and the Penske to under half a tenth of a second, but just didn't seem to have quite the edge necessary to wrest pole position from the Aussie.
Scott Dixon had taken to the runoff at turn 11 on his first flying lap and had to hustle to get back on track and lay down a fast lap before the chequered flag. He finally did so, commendably achieving third place with a last gasp lap of 1:21.8545 ahead of Hinchcliffe, Hunter-Reay and Wilson.
1. Will Power Penske-Chevrolet 112.151mph 1:21.405s (4 laps)
2. Dario Franchitti Ganassi-Honda 112.09mph 1:21.449s + 0.044s (4 laps)
3. Scott Dixon Ganassi-Honda 111.534mph 1:21.855s + 0.450s (3 laps)
4. James Hinchcliffe Andretti-Chevrolet 111.343mph 1:21.996s + 0.591s (4 laps)
5. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti-Chevrolet 111.011mph 1:22.241s + 0.836s (5 laps)
6. Justin Wilson Dale Coyne-Honda 110.974mph 1:22.268s + 0.864s (5 laps)