TORONTO -- Some drivers had more fun than others Friday on the challenging streets of Exhibition Place, where the opening day of NTT IndyCar Series practice for the Honda Indy Toronto was held.
Reigning Indianapolis 500 winner Simon Pagenaud was beaming with enjoyment following his posting of the day's fastest lap (59.8708 seconds). But the 11-turn, 1.786-mile temporary circuit is one of the most demanding of the 2019 season, and it gobbled up several drivers during Friday's two practices.
The trickiest corner on this day was Turn 11, where a small area of surface change contributed to black marks on the concrete barrier and yellow flags to halt the action. Will Power and Takuma Sato spun there, Newgarden, Sato (a second time) and Alexander Rossi hit the wall.
Rossi also bounced off the Turn 9 wall in a separate incident. Fortunately, none of the damage was significant, although the right side of Sato's car required more work than time allowed Friday.
Rossi described Friday's practice as the time when the track's boundaries can be explored.
"You don't want to make these mistakes (in Saturday's qualifying) or Sunday (in the 85-lap race), so you can get a little bit more adventurous with your lines and experimentation to see if something works, and obviously I found a few things that didn't work," he said. "Hopefully we don't find any more."
Pagenaud said he "loves this track," and with good reason. It's tight, twisty and requires full concentration. Pagenaud said drivers enjoy balancing risk versus reward.
"You have to decide if that's a good choice to go in as solid as you think (you can) or if you should give some up," he said. "That's what's so much fun in qualifying here. You really have to put it down on the line and try as hard as you can.
"It's a risky lap, but it's also a lot of fun because you know that if you mess it up it's going to be in the wall."
Rookie Felix Rosenqvist also navigated the temporary street circuit cleanly on Friday, finishing with the day's second-fastest lap. The lap in the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda was 59.9311 seconds, 0.06 seconds off Pagenaud's 59.59.8708 in the No. 22 DXC Technology Chevrolet of Team Penske.
Rosenqvist said the experience of racing here twice in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires in 2016 -- a pair of wins from the pole -- benefitted him.
"I think it's hard to explain how bumpy these (U.S. street) circuits are," he said. "Having done most of my racing career in Europe, I think I what I used to call bumpy is not even on the scale on a track like this. It's not even visible. It's such big bumps and surface changes."
Make no mistake: Rosenqvist and the others enjoy and appreciate the Toronto circuit.
"Yeah, it's cool," the Swedish driver said. "I think this is one of the most fun circuits. It's hard to say why, but it's just one with good flow. Yeah, it puts a smile on my face when (I) do a good lap."
Pagenaud, Rosenqvist and Sebastien Bourdais, driver of the No. 18 MOUSER Honda, posted laps quicker than 1 minute Friday, although more speed is expected in Saturday's NTT P1 Award qualifying session (2 p.m., NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network). The track record for this configuration is 58.9124 seconds set by Pagenaud in 2017.
A third NTT IndyCar Series practice will be held Saturday at 10:20 a.m. ET ahead of qualifying. The 85-lap Honda Indy Toronto will be held Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network. Follow timing and scoring information at racecontrol.indycar.com.