Rossi, Chilton in search of traction at Sonoma

IndyCar's high-profile rookies have said despite their relative lack of familiarity with Sonoma Raceway, last week's test proved that finding traction and controlling tire degradation will be the biggest challenges this weekend.

Rossi, Chilton in search of traction at Sonoma
Alexander Rossi, Herta - Andretti Autosport Honda
Max Chilton, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Max Chilton, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Race winner Alexander Rossi, Herta - Andretti Autosport Honda
Max Chilton, Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet
Alexander Rossi, Herta - Andretti Autosport Honda
Alexander Rossi, Herta - Andretti Autosport Honda

This weekend's 16th and final round of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series will mark the end of both Rossi's and Chilton's rookie seasons in IndyCar, and they lie 11th and 18th respectively in the championship standings. 

Andretti Autosport’s Indianapolis 500 winner Rossi told Motorsport.com: “As much as everyone describes this as my home track [Rossi’s hometown of Auburn is 100 miles northeast of Sonoma] I had never been here. So the morning session [last Thursday] was about finding a baseline, and in the afternoon we focused on long runs.

“And based on last year, I think our long runs were pretty positive in terms of tire degradation which is going to be very significant.”

Asked whether he thought Honda could match Chevrolet this weekend finale, Rossi said: “It’s a big challenge, but I think if you were going to suggest the road courses where Honda might beat Chevy, this would be one of them.

“Our problems start when everyone has to trim out for tracks with long straights, like a Road America or at Watkins Glen where there was so much track grip, we could all take away aero downforce. At that point the Honda is less efficient, creates more drag.

“But here, that’s not a problem because everyone’s running plenty of downforce. So yeah, I’m positive this can be a good track for us.”

Meanwhile Chilton, describing the track on which he made his Indy car road course test debut with Chip Ganassi Racing back in February, said: “During the test we struggled for low-speed traction, trying to find rear grip on new or used tires.

“Other than that we improved everywhere throughout the test, so we’ve got work to do but I think we’ll be all right.”

Chilton said that although he likes Sonoma Raceway, he feels it needs to be lengthened.

“I do like it but it has the same issue as Barber [Motorsports Park] – you feel it should be about 20 percent bigger. Some of the corners are too tight and Mickey Mouse, whereas I prefer faster corners.

“But it’s very challenging for the drivers because it’s low grip and you can also get strong winds which makes the handling pretty unpredictable. Then you’ve got tire degradation which will be big here – your quickest lap will be your second lap.”

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