Talk about making an entrance.
Romain Grosjean led the first practice of the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season in his first official drive with Andretti Autosport, pacing the Friday afternoon session for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding on the streets of the Florida city.
Grosjean’s best lap of 1 minute, 1.0525 seconds in the No. 28 DHL Honda led by more than a tenth of a second over reigning event winner and Andretti teammate Colton Herta, second at 1:01.1567 in the No. 26 Gainbridge Honda.
SEE: Practice Results
The strong performance appeared to validate perhaps the biggest move of the offseason, in which Grosjean and engineer Olivier Boisson joined the Andretti team after earning three podium finishes in Grosjean’s rookie season in the series last year with Dale Coyne Racing with RWR.
“We still have a bit more speed we can get out of the car to get it to my liking, but the car was really good, very smooth to drive,” Grosjean said. “I know Andretti has got a brilliant car on all the street courses. With Olivier last year, we had a really good car on road courses. Ovals, I know Andretti has got a good car, as well.
“I think with all of us, we can get something good. I’m happy that I’ve got really fast teammates. That’s going to push me to get better.”
All four of Andretti’s drivers placed in the top half of the field in the 45-minute session on the 14-turn, 1.8-mile circuit. Besides Grosjean and Herta, 2016 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge winner Alexander Rossi was sixth at 1:01.4570 in the No. 27 NAPA AUTO PARTS/AutoNation Honda. Series rookie Devlin DeFrancesco rounded out the Andretti contingent in a solid 13th at 1:01.6632 in the No. 29 PowerTap Honda.
Among other leaders, two-time St. Petersburg race winner Will Power was third at 1:01.2282 in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Simon Pagenaud, who moved from Team Penske to Meyer Shank Racing in another big offseason move, ended up fourth in his debut with his new team at 1:01.3249 in the No. 60 AutoNation/Sirius XM Honda.
Former St. Petersburg race winner Graham Rahal rounded out the top five at 1:01.3683 in the No. 15 United Rentals Honda.
Less than a second separated the top 21 drivers in the 26-competitor field, but two prominent names ended up uncharacteristically toward the bottom of that group. Six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion Scott Dixon was 19th at 1:01.7747 in the No. 9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, while 2021 championship contender Pato O’Ward was 20th at 1:01.8297 in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.
Another practice session will start Saturday action at 9 a.m. (ET), followed by NTT P1 Award qualifying at 12:30 p.m. Both sessions will stream live on Peacock Premium.