A year after starting 2017 off with a bang Sebastian Bourdais did the same thing in 2018. The 4-time champ won IndyCar’s opening race of the season in St. Pete but it wasn’t a repeat of the drive he had in 2017.
Rookie Robert Wickens dominated the race on Sunday behind the wheel of his #6 SPM Honda only to have Alexander Rossi hip check him on the penultimate lap in turn 1 following a restart. Wickens led 69 (nice) laps as he navigated the streets of St. Pete in his first IndyCar race. Rossi played chaser most of the day attempting to catch up to Wickens but never quite being able to.
With 7 laps to go in the race fellow rookie, Rene Binder crashed bringing out a full course yellow. That yellow erased a nearly 3 second lead for Wickens. On the following restart, Wickens made it off the final turn and down the front stretch, just enough Rossi couldn’t dive bomb him. Max Chilton would nose it into the tire barriers and stall the car because, why wouldn’t he? On the following restart this happened;
— IndyCar Series (@IndyCar) March 11, 2018
Rossi says Wickens forced him into the marbles thus setting up his own fate. IndyCar stewards opted not to penalize the 2016 Indy 500 champion and allow him to retain his position on the final step of the podium. Wickens was relegated to 18th place after an afternoon of dominance and a brilliant display of driving and car control. The Canadian will win this season.
Hometown boy Sebastian
Sebastian Bourdais may be from Le Mans, France but he calls St. Pete home these days. Some 10ish months after a devastatingly hard crash during Indy 500 qualifying the Frenchman returned to the top step of the podium.
Bourdais was known for being a fiery guy earlier in his career. Sunday as he was interviewed in his car he broke down in tears and told everyone how much this win meant to him and this team. If Bourdais had walked away from IndyCar following his wreck last year no one would have questioned him. Instead, he set out with something to prove and thanks to driving his ass off and putting himself in a position he got to prove that.
Dale Coyne Racing and Sebastian Bourdais are that little combo that could. Bourdais elevates their performance while Dale provides some of the best strategies around on top of employing one of the best engineers in the paddock.
New Body Kits
The new IndyCar body kits performed amazingly well on Sunday. St. Pete was one of the best street races IndyCar has had in a long time. Honda teams certainly had an advantage but after the last few years of Chevy prowess on street and road courses, it was nice to see some parity. Chevy will be back up there as the season progresses, Penske won’t let lay down for long.
Drivers were key on Sunday as well. Where the old DW12 was a point and steer once kind of car the new car is more of a drivers car. All day from onboard shots we saw drivers turning both directions in a number of corners as the rear would step out ever so slightly. If you like watching drivers actually have to drive cars with low downforce the 2018 IndyCar season is for you.
IndyCar will be back April 7th at Phoenix
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