Sebastien Bourdais won a dramatic season-opening IndyCar race of 2018 after rookie Robert Wickens was taken out of the lead on the penultimate lap.
Wickens was hit by Alexander Rossi as the Andretti driver tried to pass him for the lead after a late-race restart. Bourdais dived through to take the win ahead of Graham Rahal, who started last.
The first race for the new aero kit on the Dallara DW12 chassis was a lively affair, particularly in the opening half. Wickens rebuffed an attack from Will Power at the start which ended with the Penske driver hitting the barrier.
Charlie Kimball caused the first of what turned out to be a string of caution periods when his Carlin stopped at the hairpin. At the restart Wickens lost his lead – to another rookie. Jordan King forced his way by.
King’s lead only lasted as long as the next caution period, which came a few laps later when Graham Rahal crashed into Spencer Pigot at turn one. When the race resumed King ran wide and Wickens took his lead back. Rossi soon made his way past King for second place.
While Rossi shadowed Wickens on the track and in the pits, a trio of mid-race caution periods brought Sebastien Bourdais into contention. Matheus Leist, who ran strongly with the front runners before his race went awry with a long pit stop, caused one when he crashed out at turn three. Soon after the race went green Scott Dixon brought the yellow flags out again when he hit Takuma Sato at turn one. A fifth caution came when a tyre failure sent Jack Harvey into the barriers at the end of the lap.
Bourdais led until his final pit stop, when Wickens and Rossi jumped ahead of him by staying out longer. However two further late cautions, prompted by single-car incidents for Rene Binder and Max Chilton, set up the final, seventh restart which produced the extraordinary finish.
Rossi salvaged third place after the contact and following a review no action was taken on his collision with Wickens. James Hinchcliffe brought some cheer to Schmidt with fourth place ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay. Scott Dixon picked up two places on his way to sixth ahead of reigning champion Josef Newgarden, who was the best of the Penske finishers. Ed Jones, Marco Andretti and Will Power completed the top 10.
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2018 IndyCar Grand Prix of St Petersburg pictures
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