Scott McLaughlin's first race of the 2021 IndyCar Series is in the books. He reflects on the experience at Barber Motorsports Park in his new exclusive column for Speedcafe.com, Hired Gun, presented by Grove Hire.
I'm on the plane home writing this – completely cooked. It's been a busy weekend, and a busy day, and I'm hanging to get home for a cold beer.
Barber is like a rollercoaster – every single lap all weekend long was like a qualifier – so I'm physically and mentally drained. But can't wait to do it all again in a few days' time at St Pete!
At the end, I wanted to finish in the top 15 in qualifying and in the race – and we were able to do both.
To make Q2 on Saturday was satisfying and I was pumped with my lap to advance, but in the end was slightly bummed to be 12th.
I wanted to make sure we finished the race first, and then to finish 14th was good – but obviously I wanted so much more.
As I sit here I'm content. I'm relieved. And I'm a bit rooted. And to be honest, a bit gutted we didn't do just a bit better. Man I would have loved a top 10 finish!
It was a positive weekend though, I learnt so much from the opening moments of walking into the racetrack through until the chequered flag waving on Sunday.
I've got a full race under my belt – which I desperately needed – and we'll improve. With every lap you could see it. The team was happy, so I have to be pleased with the performance.
Now, to the actual race.
Holy cow – she was a wild start!
I saw Josef spinning and went for a hole and absolutely floored it. Thankfully I came out the other side. It was my Cole Trickle moment in the opening lap of my season! I saw the carnage unfolding in the mirrors and was thankful to get away unscathed.
I was happy with how the race went – the pit stops went smoothly and the car had great speed. We got up as high as sixth and I would have loved to grab a top 10. In the end I was pushing so hard to try and grab spots. I thought we'd grab Sato at the end but we just ran out of time. Still, we've got plenty to work on.
Overall, it was great for the team for Will to have such a strong run and finish second behind Alex Palou.
So the opening weekend is done.
The highlights – I'll remember Saturday's qualifying lap to make Q2 for a long time.
Hanging out with my fellow rookie buddies, Romain Grosjean and Jimmie Johnson before the weekend started was a real pinch me moment.
I won't lie, even the fact Jimmie a) knows my name and b) texts me, still makes me smile! And he's one of the all-time best blokes – and I love how much, like me, he's enjoying his Indy experience.
A few days to rest and we'll fly down to Florida and have another crack on St Pete's streets.