DETROIT - The new-for-2023 Detroit Street Circuit proved tricky for the drivers of the NTT IndyCar Series. A calm first half eventually started to breed chaos. Following a late race restart, polesitter Alex Palou held off Will Power in the final five laps to secure his second win of the season and take over the championship points lead.
LOW GRIP, TIGHT CORNERS TOUGH ON DRIVERS
Palou put on a clinic, leading 74 out of 100 laps and dictating the pace of the race. The dominant run comes after Palou was critical of the track earlier in the week. The track’s slick surface and tight corners caught out a number of drivers throughout the weekend.
“It was a really fun race. It was a lot better than I expected,” said Palou in the post-race press conference. “We had a lot more grip today than what we did. I think the track evolved a lot during the weekend.”
Second and third place finishers Will Power and Felix Rosenqvist noted that the track gained grip throughout the weekend, leading to a more enjoyable race circuit.
“[By the] second session you started to like it, like the challenge of it,” said Power post-race. “From a racing perspective, having that long straight with the hairpin is definitely good. I think next year if they resurface the second half of the straight you would have more passing. It was tough to go on the outside.”
“Yeah, I think the track really came alive during the race,” noted Rosenqvist in the press conference. “It seems like this track, every session the track gets more slippery. As you do more laps it gets grippier and grippier, more than other street courses.”
CAUTIONS BREED CAUTIONS
The changing track conditions were handled well for some and not so great for others. After leading a few laps early in the race, things began to unravel for Pato O’Ward shortly before halfway. O’Ward had a mechanical problem during a routine pit stop on lap 36. The team was able to fix the issue, but O’Ward was trapped two laps down.
O’Ward, then running on fresh alternate tires, carved his way through traffic to get one of his two laps back. However, on lap 43 while trying to pass Santino Ferrucci, O’Ward made an error under braking and crashed in turn 9.
The full-course yellow triggered by O’Ward’s crash setup the chaotic second half. Sting Ray Robb’s car stalled following a missed turn and brought the caution back out shortly after the restart. Under the yellow, Graham Rahal and Benjamin Pedersen lost grip in the same corner and crashed into one another.
RACING INCIDENT OR AGGRESSIVE DRIVING?
It was elbows-out racing on the ensuing restart. The Arrow McLaren cars of Alexander Rossi and Felix Rosenqvist made light contact several times during the final stint. Rossi told the media that “things would be handled internally” following the aggressive driving between teammates.
Romain Grosjean, who had a stellar opening half, set up a chaotic run to the finish after losing grip and crashing with 19 to go. The F1 vet showed his frustration by pounding his steering wheel as the car came to a stop.
A series of minor incidents following Grosjean’s crash led to a 5-lap shootout for the finish. Unlike last week’s Indianapolis 500, no other incidents occurred in that 5-lap stint. Palou’s win was his second win in three races. He has also opened up a 51-point championship lead over Marcus Ericsson.
“We'll try and keep the wave rolling if we can because it's a great moment for us,” said Palou. “We know this is not going to get until the end of the season. We'll try to take advantage of that. The next couple of races are really good for us. We'll try and, as I said, keep it going.”