Sebastien Bourdais wins second consecutive Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
Mar 13 2018 by Marjorie Miles
Canadian pole-sitter Robert Wickens, trying to become the first driver to win an IndyCar race in his debut since Buzz Calkins in 1996, led a race-high 69 laps.
"It was a heartbreaking way to end", Wickens said in an interview. I was really happy for Robert [Wickens] and kind of heartbroken for him, but for us it is just such an upset.
On the other side of the argument, Rossi, speaking with Motorsport.com believes it was Wickens' defensive tactics that caused the incident as he was forced to take an unfamiliar line.
He is part of an all-Canadian lineup at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, and he and Hinchcliffe were strong the entire weekend.
There was one other group of individuals that Bourdais also thanked in victory circle, but for more than just being there to witness his win. With just a handful of laps remaining, Rossi enjoyed a good run on Wickens down to Turn 1, enticing him to dive up the inside of the Brit, but the Andretti driver lost his rear end and wiped out his rival on the spot. Wickens slid off course and finished a devastating 18th.
Although Rossi hadn't spoken to Wickens immediately after the race, he said he meant to.
"I think bumping is important to the 500 because it's always been such a big part of the 500, the story, how many people failed, how many people made it at the last second", Rahal said. Of the 24 entries in Sunday's race, seven are considered rookies.
"I didn't get the best restart in the world, but that didn't really matter", said Wickens, who ended being classified 16th. This now ranks the four-time champion sixth on the all-time winners list. This is the past year on the TV contract that has the Indycars on ABC for a few races including the Indianapolis 500, and on NBCSN for the rest. The yellow flag would fall for the last time as Sebastien Bourdais first took the white flag and then the checkered for his 37th career victory.
"When I got the verdict of what (bones) was broken and that it was going to heal pretty well, there was never a question in my mind whether I should continue or stop", he said. "I guess I'm glad I did continue". Other notables were defending Indycar Champion Newgarden starting 13th, last year's St. Pete victor Bourdais in 14th, and 2008 race victor Graham Rahal lining up 24th and last after a spin on the track during the qualifying session.
"I feel bad because I feel like I could have won and he could have gotten second", Rossi said. "They made it very clear in the drivers' meeting that the rule on blocking was you can't move in reaction". If he defended the inside, initially, out of Turn 13 or even halfway down the (front) straight, and then I continued to go to the inside down the white line, then yeah, that's my decision and that's putting my auto in danger.
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"I don't know what the series was doing, really", Wickens said.
Wickens said he wanted to speak to series officials because he said the pace vehicle procedure differed on the final restart from the previous one and that he didn't feel he was in control of the field. Sunday saw a race-record 366 on-track passes, breaking the mark of 323 set in 2008.
Three-time St. Petersburg victor Helio Castroneves, this year's grand marshal, gave the call for drivers to start their engines in what quickly became an eventful race on the shores of Tampa Bay.
The slot was, indeed, not very clean.
Up ahead, the new kids in town were having a field day at the first restart as Wickens led from Ed Carpenter Racing's Jordan King and Foyt's Matheus Leist. After the Power spin, Tony Kanaan spun in an incident with Zach Veach that was reviewed.
The top six finishers which included James Hinchliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Dixon all used Honda engines.
The dizzying conclusion to the season opener left Bourdais atop the podium and the point standings after the first of 17 races, with Rahal in second place, 11 points behind.
Castroneves was moved by Team Penske this year from IndyCar to its new sports vehicle program, but he will race in the Indy 500 in May.
Coyne then added a bit more levity to the post-race party shortly after Bourdais said he was 39 years old.