McLaughlin, a three-time Supercar champion, got the 1.8-mile St. Petersburg circuit 0.1237 seconds faster than teammate Will Power to snatch the top spot as he begins his second season in IndyCar.
With 2021 race engineer Jonathan Duguid moving to the Porsche Penske LMDh sports project, and the IndyCar branch of the legendary team contracting three cars, the McLaughlin is now being designed by Ben Bretzman, long-time partner now-left Simon Pagenaud.
McLaughlin told the media: “It’s something you know you can do, but sometimes – obviously in Australia we’ve had a lot of success with wins and all that kind of thing and you know you can do it, but you have a tough year like ’21 where you haven’t They click and there were a few things that didn’t pull it together, but you know the speed is in. It’s all about taking the pressure off yourself and just focusing on what you need to do, and that’s what we did today.
“I work really well with the new engineer, Ben Pritzman, who has been fantastic to me. Jonathan Dugweed, who I’ve been working with, has basically helped me up until this point. He was the only engineer I’ve worked with up to this point, and Ben took me and polished me a little bit there. I feel good.”
McLaughlin said he’s “worked hard in the off-season to make sure I’m ready to go. It’s important, I’m there, and it’s important that I pay these guys.” [Will Power and Josef Newgarden who qualified second and ninth respectively today] Because it will only make them better and make me better as a team…
“We worked really hard on this track with the simulator and luckily the simulator was great for that and it got me into a great basic setup that I only touched a little bit here and there, just tweaking to try to determine what was right.
“I know what I’m driving there and I can just multiply the laps and find the time inside of me, which is exactly what I did on that Q3 cycle. I put together the lap I worked on throughout the session and didn’t get it right. I looked at a bit of Will’s data, I looked To a little bit of Joseph’s data and you put it together. Don’t panic.
“And I think experience – you can’t buy experience. I definitely feel very comfortable now in the series and in the car.”
McLaughlin also praised Chevrolet, which ranked third out of the top four qualifying spots, for improving its engine’s ability to drive out of slow corners.
“Yeah, I think it was a very massive step forward that Chevrolet is taking by driving us in particular, and there is a lot of hard work from them and working with all the teams. So I’m definitely feeling a lot better, definitely some of the exact sectors we’ve been slower in the last couple of years. Really good, and the drivability there is much better.
“Honestly, it’s starting to impress me a little bit – I won’t go into too many details because there’s a Honda guy sitting next to me [Romain Grosjean]but I feel a lot better, and sure, I think, Will will say the same.”