Ericsson snatches win from O’Ward as crashes claim all four Andretti cars


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Marcus Ericsson won a bizarre, incident-filled Grand Prix of St. Petersburg after passing Patricio O’Ward with two laps to go.

Ericsson hit the front when his McLaren rival’s engine seized momentarily exiting the final corner. The pair arrived in the top two places after Romain Grosjean and Scott McLaughlin – the dominant drivers of the day – crashed into one another, capping a race full of crashes and controversies.

The opening lap of the race was marred by an eight car pile-up which saw Devlin DeFrancesco’s Andretti car launched into the air after being hit in the side by rookie Benjamin Pedersen. The incident began when Scott Dixon and Felix Rosenqvist made contact into turn two, causing the field behind Rosenqvist to slow around the fast, blind turn three.

Santino Ferrucci turned Helio Castroneves around, then Graham Rahal got into the back of DeFrancesco and spun him. Sting Ray Robb lost control and left Simon Pagenaud nowhere to go but sandwiched into the barriers. Pedersen then arrived on the scene with excessive speed and ran into the side of DeFrancesco.

In total, seven cars suffered significant damage. Thankfully, DeFrancesco and all other drivers involved walked away without any significant injuries, though the race had to be stopped while the carnage was cleared away.

When the race finally resumed, Grosjean and Colton Herta streaked away from the field behind them. The Andretti pair started the race on the softer, alternate-compound tyres. Herta struggled towards the end of his stint and dropped to ninth before making his first pit stop on lap 27. Grosjean, with the benefit of clean air, led all the way until he made his first pit stop on lap 32.

Last year’s race winner Scott McLaughlin was one of the drivers that started the race on the primary compound tyre. He worked his way into the top five towards the end of his stint, and cycled to the lead after Grosjean’s first stop. He pitted on lap 35 and rejoined the track right ahead of Grosjean. Even on cold tyres, McLaughlin’s car took on a strong defensive posture to keep the race lead on the softer compound rubber

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On lap 36, Kyle Kirkwood made contact with Conor Daly at turn eight, spinning Daly around, bringing out the second full course caution. The ensuing restart on lap 42 lasted only four corners when another multiple-car crash unfolded.

It began when Rinus VeeKay slid off into the tyre barriers. Kirkwood and Jack Harvey made contact with VeeKay’s car, sending Kirkwood airborne off the back of Harvey’s. Somehow, Kirkwood was able to drive his car back to the pits, but VeeKay and Harvey weren’t as fortunate, retiring from the race due to damage.

At half-distance, there was another restart and yet again, another crash. Reigning champion Will Power collided with Herta through turn six, and then they touched again which sent Herta wide and into the tyre barriers at turn seven. The Andretti driver was out of the race, and for his troubles, Power was sent to the rear of the field on the following restart for causing avoidable contact.

Only then, with 45 laps remaining, did the field finally complete another full lap of racing without incident. McLaughlin on the alternate tyres and Grosjean on the primaries chased one another and pulled out a margin to Pato O’Ward in third.

The leading pair ran tail-to-nose until lap 70 when Grosjean was brought in from second place for his final pit stop. McLaughlin stayed out for one more lap but had to deal with the lapped car of Agustin Canapino in front of him on the way to the pits. A great stop from McLaughlin’s crew helped him rejoin, narrowly, ahead of Grosjean on cold tyres.

Grosjean sized up a move around the outside of turn four on warm tyres, McLaughlin went in deep into the braking zone to defend his position – and the two leaders crashed into one another. Both were sent into the tyre barrier, Grosjean’s race was over – all four Andretti drivers having been claimed by misfortune – and McLaughlin’s chances of victory were ruined.

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O’Ward drove past the scene of the crash, and an incensed Grosjean, into the lead. On the ensuing restart, with 21 laps to go, O’Ward rocketed off to a lead of over two seconds and stretched his advantage out to as much as three seconds, before Ericsson began closing in to within less than a second.

A race that had a season’s worth of twists and turns, had one final surprise in store: With three laps to go, O’Ward’s engine seized momentarily – the result of a plenum fire in the engine, according to the driver – allowing Ericsson to drive past with ease and take the lead down the front stretch.

Ericsson, who’s never won an unmemorable IndyCar race, led the final few laps to seal the victory, while a bitterly frustrated O’Ward consolidated second place. Scott Dixon, who started the race on primary compound tyres, finished in third.

In his debut race for the McLaren Indy squad, Alexander Rossi finished a strong fourth place. After starting 22nd, Callum Ilott fought through the pack and the carnage around him to finish a career-best fifth place.

Rahal recovered from a 20th-place start and the first-lap incident to finish sixth, while Power bounced back from his penalty to finish seventh. Alex Palou, Christian Lundgaard, and David Malukas completed the top 10, while Marcus Armstrong recovered from a collision with the aforementioned Malukas to finish 11th on his IndyCar debut, best of the four rookies in the race.

McLaughlin was credited with a 13th place finish, while Josef Newgarden dropped out late with a an engine fire and was credited with 17th place.

The IndyCar Series returns after four weeks for its second round, the first oval race of the season at Texas Motor Speedway.

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Provisional race results

18Marcus EricssonGanassiHonda
25Pato O’WardMcLarenChevrolet
39Scott DixonGanassiHonda
47Alexander RossiMcLarenChevrolet
577Callum IlottJuncos HollingerChevrolet
615Graham RahalRLLHonda
71Will PowerPenskeChevrolet
810Alex PalouGanassiHonda
945Christian LundgaardRLLHonda
1018David MalukasCoyne/HMDHonda
1111Marcus ArmstrongGanassiHonda
1278Agustin CanapinoJuncos HollingerChevrolet
133Scott McLaughlinPenskeChevrolet
1420Conor DalyCarpenterChevrolet
1527Kyle KirkwoodAndrettiHonda
1651Sting Ray RobbCoyne/RWRHonda
172Josef NewgardenPenskeChevrolet
1828Romain GrosjeanAndrettiHonda
196Felix RosenqvistMcLarenChevrolet
2026Colton HertaAndrettiHonda
2121Rinus VeeKayCarpenterChevrolet
2230Jack HarveyRLLHonda
23106Helio CastronevesMeyer ShankHonda
2414Santino FerrucciFoytChevrolet
2529Devlin DeFrancescoAndrettiHonda
2660Simon PagenaudMeyer ShankHonda
2755Benjamin PedersenFoytChevrolet

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Author information

RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

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20 comments on “Ericsson snatches win from O’Ward as crashes claim all four Andretti cars”

  1. Ouch. That is too bad for the Andretti team. Hope the next race is a bit more clean, better racing.

  2. Excellent example of how a tyre-blanket ban benefits the racing in IndyCar — but also why it may not work as well in F1. So many of IndyCar’s tracks are tight with walls or no runoff, so a car defending on cold tyres can be a cork in a bottle instead of a sitting duck. Also IndyCar races are always at least two-stoppers because refueling is required — they have no choice but to stop when they get low on fuel — whereas in F1, you could end up with a lot more boring one-stop races.

    I’d still like to see F1 try a tyre blanket ban, but perhaps selectively. It could really spice things up at Monaco or Singapore, which are typically one-stoppers anyway.

    1. Couldn’t really do it selectively as Pirelli would need to provide tyres that can give at least reasonable grip at lower temperatures as I don’t think current tyres can provide any grip as they are without being pre-warmed. It’s the sort of thing that needs committing to fully.

  3. Marcus Ericcson – winner of races.

    Tells you everything you’d ever want to know about Indycar in 2023. (and 2022, too)

    1. *Ericsson, sorry mate.

    2. That after 3 or 4 years of development, a driver can be turned into one that can win races.

      Or are we going to forget that there were a number of years that Ericsson was far from an Indycar podium.

      Gotta get that bias confirmation.

      1. That after 3 or 4 years of development, a driver can be turned into one that can win races.

        5 years wasn’t enough to turn this specific driver into one capable of outscoring his teammate.

        1. Ericsson actually placed ahead of Kobayashi in the 2014 WDC standings as a rookie at Caterham, but don’t let the facts distract you from your mission. ;)

          1. CD (@clipperdael)
            6th March 2023, 16:33

            Meanwhile in his full Indycar seasons, he actually has been outscored by all of his full-season teammates. Dixon, Palou and Rosenqvist consistently placed in front of him in all seasons since 2020. The only full-season teammate that he managed to outscore himself was Johnson in ’22, who had an abysmal time in the car and barely seemed to find some decent speed.

          2. Ericsson – 16 races, 0 pts
            Kobayashi – 16 races, 0 pts

            It’s almost as if I chose the word “outscoring” deliberately. Almost.

    3. Max Verstappen, F1 WDC 2023, already since one week before the first race of the season both titles have already been decided, while in IndyCar there’s at least 10 drivers with a realistic shot at the title. Tells you everything you’d ever want to know about F1 in 2023 (or any other year for all that matters), eh?

      Put Ericsson in a Red Bull and he would be winning F1 races too – at least as often Checo does. And if Max was driving the same crappy cars Ericsson used to in F1, he would be lucky to score an occasional point, despite being a once-in-a-generation level talent.

      In F1 it’s all about the car. But because the equipment in IndyCar is much more equal than in F1 and therefore much less important, it is not unusual that a solid journeyman driver is able every once in a while to capitalize on other’s mistakes and pick up a win. And Ericsson, while far from being good enough to even dream about ever winning the F1 World Championship isn’t exactly a talentless idiot you seem to believe he is.

    4. Oh stop with the nonsense. Give everybody in F1 a RedBull to drive and you might be surprised who are winners and who are not.

    5. I’m sure you didn’t even see it, so you have no clue what you’re talking about. But thanks for your worthless opinion.

  4. (sigh) Just a TINY shred of patience and that win would have been yours, Romain.

    The accident falls fully on McLaughlin’s shoulders (by his own admission), but RoGro should know the risk/reward for that kind of outside move on a street course by now.

    1. Disagree – the consensus among the commentary booth is that had McLaughlin made turn 4 and kept the position, he’d have had enough of an advantage to get his tyres up to temperature through the street part of the circuit as passing prior to turn 9 is far trickier- leaving Grojean with, I think, little opportunity to make a pass for the win. Complete understand going for the move right there as the tyre temp advantage wasn’t going to last long enough.

      1. @skydiverian

        I agree with @nerrticus . Grosjean seems to enjoy being the martyr. I don’t think anyone is surprised that McLaughlin couldn’t hold the corner, his fate was made the moment he picked the inside and kept the pedal down. Grosjean joined the party also keeping the pedal down and chose trying to win with a all costs attitude over safely being on the podium and would’ve also gave himself 30 more laps to make something happen to win, yes it would have been harder only if McLaughlin was able to make that impossible corner cleanly.

        How many more times do you think are we going to hear Grosjean had been wronged in future races? I doubt this will be last one.

    2. I think Grosjean was right to try that move as you can have 2 cars go side by side through that corner. unfortunately McLaughlin lost control while trying to defend and ran into him.

  5. CD (@clipperdael)
    6th March 2023, 9:03

    Cracking race and an exciting start to the season, well maybe next time wreck a couple cars less.

    The turn that Grosjean and McLaughlin crashed in just isn’t wide enough to allow for two cars side by side unless both drivers are 100% willing to back down considerably and leave lots of space, which is to say you saw that crash coming from the moment McLaughlin rejoined a car’s length in front of Grosjean. Terrible luck for O’Ward too, he looked like he had the win in the bag. Kinda funny how Ericsson always seems to profit from chaotic races and/or other people’s engine troubles.

  6. My first reaction was that Grosjean should have waited, but given the amount of time he spent behind McLaughlin after the first stops despite having a quicker car he was probably right to go for it. Would have needed a very compliant opponent though so contact was inevitable unless one of them backed off.

    Andretti looked very quick here, will be interesting to see if that carries forward. And if they can keep their cars on track!

  7. Unlike the F1 race where you knew who was going to win before it started, you had no clue in the IndyCar race what was going to happen every lap! Incredibly entertaining and exciting!!! Even though McLaughlin has apologized, I think Grosjean should have backed off. Sure would have loved to see that fight continue longer. Then it was Pato’s race, but an engine glitch gave it to Ericsson. Crazy stuff.

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