Despite qualifying in the top spot for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Colton Herta is still unsure which tires he will be putting on his car for the start of Sunday’s race.
IndyCar has two tire compounds available to teams, denoted by a red or black stripe around the shoulder of the tire.
The black tires are the harder variety and are designated as the primary tire. The red tires are the softer variety and designated the alternate.
Typically, the red tires are faster around the circuit for one or two laps, but degrade more quickly. This weekend has shown that a used set of red tires can last for quite a few laps before dropping off, however.
In addition, the black tires have shown a lot of pace around the grippy street course this weekend, and are presenting drivers and teams alike with some difficult choices for their race strategies.
“I went into this session thinking that it was going to be a black [tire] race, like it was last year,” said Herta after winning his fifth NTT Pole Award on Saturday.
“Now I’m kind of scratching my head because I know a lot of guys might not be able to make it work, but it seems like we might be one of the guys that might be able to make it work on used red tires.
“We’ll have to wait and see. We have a lot of data to go through tonight.
“For me, the grip level was very similar to the new reds after they had a heat cycle on them, which is very strange. I haven’t really seen that in my IndyCar career yet.
“For sure, after seeing what happened today, I’m really going to push the team to be on those used reds tomorrow on warmup and try to get a good run in, see whether it’s a viable strategy or not.”
Each driver must run at least two laps on each tire compound during the race, often leading to differing tire strategies up and down the field.
But even so, each team usually has a clear preference ahead of time on which tire performs best for each car.
The teams will try to nail down that preference in this morning’s short warm-up session, but the true performance differences may not present themselves until the race is already under way.