Starting last seemed to be the only worry for Sebastien Bourdais as he wins the Verizon IndyCar Series season opener the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. His win comes after a disappointing qualifying where Bourdais crashed under braking going into the last corner.
The street circuit of St. Petersburg has been known for its crazy starts and the 2017 opener kept true to that. Getting through turn 1 was the only thing on the lap that was clean. A collision between the #15 of Graham Rahal and #83 of Charlie Kimball bring out a full course yellow. Also involved in the collision was the #14 of Carlos Munoz. Munoz would be the only car to retire from the race due to damage from the crash.
The green flag would wave again on lap 6 with James Hinchcliffe making a swift move on race leader Will Power into turn 1 taking the lead. Ed Carpenter Racing driver Spencer Pigot would also be making moves climbing up the field early. A disc failure would put the IndyCar sophomore out of the race.
Will Power would be the first of the leaders to pit on lap 14 but would be penalized for dragging pit equipment after leaving his pit box.
The first scheduled pit stops would come on lap 23 with Bourdais and Conor Daly pitting. Marco Andretti, Tony Kanaan, and Simon Pagenaud would follow the next lap. Tony Kanaan would collide with Mikhail Aleshin while exiting the pits. Damage from the cars would be enough to bring out a full course yellow making the drivers who pitted earlier the leaders.
Contact between Conor Daly and Ryan Hunter-Reay would be the highlight of the restart. During the early stages of the restart, Sebastien Bourdais would assume the lead from Simon Pagenaud.
Lap 51 would see the leaders making their penultimate pit stops with Takuma Sato taking the while the top 2 pitted. Sato would give up the lead to Bourdais when he takes his stop.
Bourdais would continue to lead throughout the last pit cycle. Alexander Rossi would have a tire issue causing him to lose pace late in the race.
The leaders Bourdais and Simon Pagenaud would make their last pit stops on lap 82 and 83. Takuma Sato who looked set for a podium would suffer a pit issue when his right front tire changer’s air gun failed putting Scott Dixon into the last podium position and dropping Sato to fourth before being passed by teammate Hunter-Reay on the last lap.
Sebastien Bourdais and Simon Pagenaud would keep the first two positions for the rest of the race. Pagenaud would never mount a real challenge against Bourdais allowing him to pull away.
Sebastien Bourdais would go on to win the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg by 6 seconds. This is Bourdais 36th career win and his first with Dale Coyne Racing in his first start for the team since 2011.
Featured Image Credit – Chris Jones – www.indycar.com