The victory may have gone to Sebastien Bourdais for the second year in a row, but the winner at St. Pete was Robert Wickens. After a brilliant run to grab the pole on Saturday, Wickens drove an excellent race, leading 69 laps and had the race well in hand. Alexander Rossi pursued him relentlessly all day, but couldn’t quite get to him.
Two late cautions put Wickens’ lead in jeopardy. The last one set up a restart with just two laps to go. Oddly, the lights on the pace car did not go out signaling a restart. Was Wickens unaware the green was coming? Rossi pounced at the flag. He pulled alongside Wickens in turn one. Wickens had put his car in a good defensive spot. Rossi going inside but he put his right side wheels on the curb, causing a collision with Wickens. Rossi recovered to finish third, while Wickens could not continue. It was a tough ending to what had been a great day for the rookie.
I don’t blame Rossi for going for the win. That’s what racers do. He did put his car in a bad spot to maintain control and cost another driver the race. No driver had gone on the curb all weekend. A little background, though. In Friday afternoon’s practice Rossi once waited until the apex of the turn to brake and kept the car under control. Perhaps he as trying this move out. However, he didn’t have his wheels on the curb. So I put the blame n Rossi for the incident. He usually doesn’t make mistakes like that.
The race overall was great. After a caution filled first 40 laps, things settled down to some excellent racing. Wickens and Rossi battled for first all day, and there were battles for positions in the top 10 constantly. Sometimes on street course the cars can get strung out so far you never see two cars at once. That wasn’t the case yesterday. It was an outstanding way to start the season.
I haven’t seen the ABC broadcast yet, but I’m not hearing many compliments about it.
Scott Dixon had an awful weekend with his qualifying mistake and his collision with Sato in the race. His avoidable contact penalty was compounded with a pit violation. Despite all that he still managed a 6th place finish.
One thing I noticed about the new cars- I realize how easy the old cars were to drive. These cars are a handful. We are going to find out who the really skilled drivers are this year. Bring on that extra horsepower.
Last is becoming the place to start at St. Pete. Bourdais won from last place in 2017 and Graham Rahal fought through some early issues to finish second this time around.
It took me awhile to get it through my head that Helio Castroneves wasn’t in the Hitachi car. Then I realized it couldn’t be him because the car had the number 1 on it.
The fans in the turn 1 grandstand rose as one and gave Robert Wickens a long loud ovation when he got out of his car after the incident with Rossi.
Entry to the track was smoother this year. Security has streamlined their procedures. They could use a no bag line, though.
As an event St. Pete continues to grow. There was more signage downtown on the street and in stores. Newspaper advertising was more extensive including front page wrap around on Thursday.