Alexander Rossi, Robert Wickens, IndyCar, St Petersburg, 2018

Bourdais wins in St Petersburg as crash denies Wickens a rookie victory


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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.

Sebastien Bourdais, Coyne, IndyCar, St Petersburg, 2018
Bourdais repeated his win from 12 months ago
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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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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57 comments on “Bourdais wins in St Petersburg as crash denies Wickens a rookie victory”

  1. Crazy ending!Poor Wickens, he did a perfect race but it wasnt meant to win the race…

    1. Both Wickens and Rossi were nearly good enough for F1 and Bourdais had almost a season at Toro Rosso. A much deeper field than Formula E, when it comes to raw speed. Although, we can see the rough edges that kept them out of F1 it will provide excitement for IndyCar. I think we will see a lot of this the rest of the year.

      1. “Rough edges that kept them out”? It’s not lack of talent, the field in IndyCar is deep. No, a very loose car with low downforce on a slippery narrow street course makes for full contact racing.

        1. Agreed.
          Anxious adrenalin vs. calm experience? … Was he waiting for that and just racing for points ?

      2. Almost a season for Bourdais at Toro Rosso? he did all of 08 and half of 09 and Rossi did a few races for manor in 15 although it was the previous years car so its not like he could do much with it.

    2. Feel for wickens..a rank hail mary move by rossi suprised he didnt get a penalty ..he prolly would of in F1.

  2. I don’t know what to say about Rossi move. Yeah he should go for it like he did but to ruin a race in that way for anyone let alone rookie that drove perfect first dream race…he should be penalized heavily. Btw anyone feels that Wickens should have tried to cover inside line earlier?

  3. I think Wickens made a big error for not blocking Rossi, he left the door open etc… I am sure he learned from it.

    1. Blocking is not allowed in Indycars, I think.

      1. @franco, I believe that you are indeed correct and the regulation you are thinking of (under Section 9, which deals with penalties) is this one:
        9.3.2. Blocking – A Driver must not alter his/her racing line to pursuing Drivers.

        1. But thats an rule for ovals, surely it cant be for racetracks.

          1. “Blocking is defined as two distinct moves for the sole purpose of impeding … ONE move is allowed to impede. How many moves to impede did you see in that sequence? Was it a dangerous move? Was the intent to remove both of them from the race?

          2. As I understand the rules, in F1 drivers can make 1 move to defend, but in Indy the drivers can’t alter their line at all in response to the attacking driver. So, without taking a defensive line sooner, he wouldn’t have been allowed to move to the inside and block.

          3. Rossi made a dive bomb and it wouldnt stick he braked very late and dive inside, if it wasnt mid corner, he was gonna smash car at the outside, this is every way a dumb move and not really a found an opening and stick in… no wonder why american races look a lot like american wrestling…. joke… if they dont penalize rossi, it means these races are really a joke…

  4. The cars look good
    The race and drivers are terrible

    1. I have to wonder why you watch racing and which series you prefer? Exact same can be said about F1, except that bit about the cars looking good.

      I actually enjoyed the racing today, maybe F1 will take notes on less downforce.

      1. Just one thing: yellow, yellow, yellow, yellow.

        1. @dougracing, I get the feeling that some are more interested in seeing people crash into each other, because I have to agree that the frequency with which the cautions were occurring made the race very stop start and, frankly, somewhat farcical.

        2. First race with much lower downforce cars on a slippery street course with no room for error. Keep watching, it’s better than F1 where you know who’s going to win / finish on the podium before the race starts.

          1. @don, yup just like american wrestling, it is so unpredictable who would win in indy car… if thats the moto of indy car encouraging bumper car races to see who gets to finish line at all costs, they are doing a pretty good demolition derby of a race…

      2. F1 taking notes on less downforce.. lol
        This only works when everybody uses the same chassis and modifying it is forbidden.

        F1 could turn the cars into blocks with wheels and somebody would create some artifact to create more downforce and it would start all over again.

  5. @keithcollantine Wow that was fast, did you write this in the BT Sport commentary booth?!

    Feel awful for Wickens, he drove so well throughout the race and really deserved the win. That said, I think the collision was just a racing incident. Wickens took a risk by not leaving much room (but definitely enough), and Rossi took a risk by sending it in so aggressively. They both wanted the win and were prepared to take the risks to make it happen, sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t.

  6. John Toad (@)
    11th March 2018, 19:37

    I hope that some of the decision makers from F1 were watching this race to see what happens when you remove downforce from the cars, much closer, tighter racing with drivers having to work hard at the wheel.
    Please can we do the same with F1 and get rid of a lot of the aerodynamic froth.
    I forget who it was that said it but the quote goes something like ‘ For good racing you need more power than grip’
    So F1 the example is there, do you have the gumption to heed it or will be a case of ‘not invented here’ syndrome.

    1. “More power than grip”. Yes, there’s some carnage with that combination and entertaining racing.

    2. what happens when you remove downforce from the cars, much closer, tighter racing with drivers having to work hard at the wheel.

      @ceevee which was exactly what F1 got in 2009 for doing exactly that?

  7. A lot of ridiculous moves. A lot of bad driving.
    A race like that in F1 and the world would end.
    Shame for Wickens who did everything right.
    Good looking cars though.

    1. “A lot of bad driving.”
      You do realize the level of difficulty for the drivers in this race was much higher than any F1 race?
      Those unforgiving cars amplify every mistake that in F1 would go unnoticed.

      1. ” the level of difficulty was much higher than any F1 race”

        A rookie driver almost won the race…. :-p

        1. It’s called spec racing, where driver talent matters more than the car. Also, it’s the first race with new regulations greatly reducing downforce which levels the playing field. Are the drivers in F1 bad because Lewis Hamilton won races his rookie year?

  8. Sounds like I missed a fun race! I would love to have Indycar on free-to-air in the UK. After reading about Formula E’s poor viewing figures (I TV ditched it, Channel 5 now have a product that attracts lower viewing figures than the programmes before and after each race).

    Would Indycar beat Formula E’s viewing figures? I reckon. Same kind of profile but better cars and circuits, and it would always be in a Sunday prime time slot. I can but dream.

  9. Gutted for Wickens, but great drive by him, he is the real deal and will be back.

    I won’t fault Rossi for going for an opening, but to make it stick you have to make the corner, he didn’t. If Wickens wasn’t there to be collected by him, Rossi would have likely still let Bourdais by and maybe would have slid all the way to the wall himself.

    Glad for Bourdais to pick up the pieces and win back to back. The lack of downforce appears to be a welcome turn for the racing in IndyCar. It could be a very interesting season. I’m not much for predictions, but here goes anyway, Wickens will win a race, maybe more.

    1. I’ve just realised that I’ve more or less duplicated your comment.

      This was is a genuine coincidence…

      1. No worries, great minds and all.. :-)

        Very much agree with your Bourdais comment. He has been one of my favorite drivers in IndyCar following his time in F1.

        Should be an interesting season in IndyCar.

  10. Good fortune for Sebastian. I’ve always rated him and thought his departure from F1 was harsh. He deserved to at least finish his season. He’s certainly gone on to prove his talent.

    I’m gutted for Wickens. I can’t help but think if he defended a little more robustly, he’d have won that race. To be fair to Rossi, he’s a quality driver and he went for a gap to move for the lead in the late stages of the race. If only Wickens could have prevented Rossi getting alongside… Hindsight is wonderful, though.

    Great race though. I love how the new cars look. They remind me of early nineties F1 cars somehow. As impressive as the new crop of F1 machines are, simple areo makes a car look good. The standard of the field looks competitive as well. I’m looking forward to an exciting season.

    Credit to race control, too. I got the impression that they really acted quickly to get the safety car in as quickly as possible. This has been an indycar bug bare of mine. As an F1 fan, I always felt safety car periods seemed to be quite excessive. Very thorough, but very long. Today, they clearly proved that their second priority below safety is getting the race underway as quickly as possible. Thumbs up!

  11. Rossi started to slide the moment he turned the wheel. He caused the collision whilst Wickens had the proper control of his car through the corner. Two of those turns have ruined the race, and people complain about Formula E

  12. Just watched it again, Rahal, Dixon and Rossi need race bans for taking inncocent drivers out. These are moves worse than what’s tainted Grosjean for life and in some people’s minds Verstappen has done.
    Mickey Mouse track, I’d trust the Formula E drivers racing there over half of that bunch.

    1. Uhhhh wow, you need some context. First race with new regulations reducing downforce on a street track as unforgiving as Monaco or Singapore. Not to mention that the main straight is an airport runway with paint in the breaking zone that offers little to no grip. Why don’t you go back and watch Grosjean’s crash and compare with what you saw today.

  13. I’ve not really watched a full season of Indycar before, this will be my first. My first impression was that despite spec cars and tyres, the field still spreads out. Most of the close racing and action seemed to result from the safety car periods, similar to Touring Car races (Like V8 Supercars). So from that view this was similar to an F1 race typical at Montreal or some of the classic races at the Hungaroring. I also think its fairly telling that three rookies and two F1 rejects performed so well in what was almost a clean slate for all.
    Imagine what Alonso would do to the field at a road or street Indycar race?
    Despite all this, I enjoyed it.

    1. I think most F1 drivers would have ended up in the wall with the removal of the driving band aid of extreme downforce, trying to adjust to a LOW downforce car on a slippery, bumpy street track with painted areas with grip like ice.

  14. Great race this one! I’m glad the season started like this because I had already decided to make an effort and watch the whole season, not just the 500s.

    I have to say I think Wickens missed a trick on that restart. Rossi shouldn’t have been in a position to pull alongside him in the first place. Considering what Rossi said about the P2P restart, Wickens reacted slowly, and he also could’ve covered the inside better. That being said, Rossi completely missed his braking point… unfair on Wickens but that’s racing. It reminded me of Hulkenberg crash with Hamilton, as he had also lost the car before both touched. Nico got penalized tho…

    I’m also happy because Indycar starting the season means F1’s opening race is very close now!

  15. Really enjoyed that race as a motorsport fix before F1 gets to Melbourne. Gutted for Wickens, he deserved that win and was driving to the rules. I get that going for a gap is racing, but I wonder if the ‘all or nothing’ mentality is what has kept Rossi sidelined from F1?

    Imagine if that final incident was Vettel v Hamilton, the internet would have melted :)

    Chilton still showing the height of his racing skills…

    1. “Imagine if that final incident was Vettel v Hamilton, the internet would have melted :)”
      Indeed , the same thought occurred to me..

  16. Formula 1 please note: 1. Car camera variety and quality. 2. Lack of downforce. 3. Seeing drivers actually work. 4. Handling of yellow flags and restarts.

    Huge F1 and McLaren fan, and also always watch the 500 no matter what, but this too may be the first year in a long time I’ll watch the full IndyCar season and I can’t wait!

    F1 is great for car design and star drivers, but to see the drivers in IndyCar yesterday having to work so hard to keep the cars pointed in the right direction was a breathe of fresh air.

    If Rossi, my favorite Indy Driver, gets together a contending season, and the races continue to have this much excitement, and Mercedes walks away in F1, there is the scary possibility I’m going to be following the Indy season more then F1 for the first time since I was a kid. IndyCar was trending on Twitter last night, there may be real bumping at Indy again, and I really feel a change is coming, that Indy’s popularity might finally be on the rise again.

    Now I just need McLaren to get its IndyCar program together in the next few years!

  17. That was good. Glad no penalty for Rossi, it was a racing incident, he tried but it went wrong. Not only has F1 got aero issues for following but also no drivers dare to have a 50/50 go or all hell breaks loose and penalty points, fans going off the handle if their favourite driver or team looses out. To be fair Danny Ricciardo throws dive bombs but they seem to come off. See F1 around early 90’s back and drivers had a go, contact happened but commentators just carry on as if its normal, nowadays Sky turn everything into an epic major incident.

  18. Loved this. Poor Wickens, he drove a fantastic race but had the misfortune to be dive bombed right at the end. Glad that the stewards treated it as a racing incident though-we all know what happens when race control tries to legislate every move.
    Watching the cars wiggle and writhe through the corners was fantastic-real racing machines with more power than grip. Anyone who says that these drivers are second rate can’t have been paying enough attention.
    Can’t wait until Phoenix. Guess I’ll have to make do with the scalextric next weekend…

  19. For all the talk about how great this new car is & how great to days race supposedly was, I don’t feel this was any different to a lot of the other races at this track.

    The new car didn’t really generate any more overtaking than the old one & the racing was also no closer than with the old one.

    The only time you saw closer racing & a bit more overtaking was on starts & restarts (Helped by a mixed up griddle to the rain sprinkles in qualifying) or when you had cars on different tyres compounds or strategies. When you had drivers on the same compound & strategies it looked just as difficult to follow & just as difficult to overtake as in the past.

    And also for most of the race there were big gaps between cars, just as bad as what we see in f1. You had the top 3 separated by about 10 seconds before the last caution & the cars behind 3rd were way behind with again a big gap behind them. The field was spread out just as they always are here.

    My point been that its far too early to be praising this carats the return of cart or something as I see many doing. It was a typical st.pete Indy race, nothing more nothing less. We see over races to come just what this car is doing.

    1. It was reported that the number of on-track passes was 366 which broke the previous record for the track of 322 set in 2008.

      The T&S for several cars during the long green flag period in the middle of the race listed gaps from 0.5 to 0.8 seconds.

      ABC’s poor camera direction is commonly cited for often missing on-track action.

  20. There was nothing it could not be done for this race. The weekend was very bad for all drivers during practice, qualifying and the race itself. The huge problem was the runway paint in turn 1. There was absolutely no grip and Rossi lost the rear end that caused him to bump into Wickens. Drivers go wide and collide.

    But to be honest: Wickens really drove one hell of a race.

    But I really feel it for Penske with a rough outing they had today. I was thinking for Newgarden when he got into the pits for service while at the same time Jack Harvey lost his rear right tire right before the final turn before the yellow. But the last 2 yellows proved the difference. I would also applaud Jordan King and Matheus Leist for their performance despite having it rough.

  21. Indy Car needs DRS so that cars can safely motor past one another on the straightaways, thus avoiding the risk of passing in braking zones and turns, like in F1.

    1. Rather than DRS, they have an overtake button on the steering wheel giving them 60 extra HP.

  22. Josh (@canadianjosh)
    12th March 2018, 8:15

    Rossi’s excuse was he thought Wickens threw a block which put him down into the marbles and that’s why he lost control of his car. In my view Rossi had a shot to make that pass and jumped at the opening and unfortunately took Wickens out, but he should have manned up and said it was his mistake instead of blaming Wickens.

  23. Mark in Florida
    12th March 2018, 12:45

    I felt so disappointed for Wickens. He drove a flawless race all day. I’m a Rossi fan but that move was so stupid and amateurish I was embarrassed for him. To say he had to go for it because it was late in the race is no excuse either. Drivers had been sliding on that paint all day he had no chance of making that pass it was a dive bomb move pure and simple. One things for sure though Wickens is on everyone’s radar. If he keeps this up look for him to be at a top team before too long. Great job Robert.

  24. Looks like I might be in the minority here, but I loved what I saw yesterday. Keith warned in the preview the other day that St. Pete races tend to be processional; instead the new cars were slipping all over the place and drivers were making mistakes, so you had to stay until the second-last lap to figure out who was going to win.

    You know that if Dixon goes kamikaze into turn one that these cars are harder to handle. People above are saying it was horrible driving, but I’d rather have these better-looking cars sliding around than a single-file train on rails.

  25. After watching the clash numerous times, freeze framing over and over – Wickens had to have known Rossi was all over him and drove way down in the corner. He left Rossi no room whatsoever, none. Yes, too bad for him – but he should have stayed a bit wider because he caused his own demise. A very exciting ending, that would have been even more so if Rossi would have gotten by (IMHO).

  26. Does anyone else wonder about whether Bourdais was kicked out of F1 too soon? The more I watch him in other categories, the more impressive he seems to me. Granted, F1 is its own thing, but it takes real talent to shine across multiple categories.

  27. I like IndyCar but IMO, the IndyCar street circuits are much too narrow for the cars themselves and the number of cars in the field. Too often, drivers try to force their way past when there simply isn’t enough space and the results are just what you would expect: too many races with results decided by crashes. St. Pete was another example.

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