Bourdais Wins Second Consecutive Firestone Grand Prix Of St. Petersburg

Wickens and Leist jumped forward in the Fast Six as the clock wound to zero and for the Brazilian teenager the result was a definite surprise

But depending on the subject, he was both the hero and the villain.

IndyCar rookie Robert Wickens, who started on pole, led the race for 69 laps and had the win in his grip until contact with Alexander Rossi on a restart took him out of contention, Associated Press reports.

And now for the villainous viewpoint. He restarted the race 21st.

Honda swept the Top 5 positions in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. I tried my best not to hit him.

"It's just a great feeling to be able to, like I said, restart the season this way and make a statement really, because it was obviously not a given". That's why I didn't defend that hard. We know that we are.

"Yes, we're rookies in IndyCar. but (I've) also been racing for 12 years", King said. "Before, I had not raced him, but I know now". He saw how late I braked.

After all, at 38 years old then, he's been racing in open-wheel Indy cars for almost two decades.

Wickens said afterward he gave Power enough space "and it just didn't work out for him".

We were treated to an absolute spectacle in St Petersburg as the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series burst into life and gave us 110 laps of pure adrenaline.

Sunday's win was anything but a given.

Will Power spun as he raced Wickens for the lead in the first turn of the first lap.

The Verizon IndyCar Series drivers and fans will now have some time to catch their breath before the next race. Rossi had been chasing down rookie Wickens for much of the race and finally got his chance on the 109th lap. Rossi dove inside of Wickens in the first turn with two laps remaining, Wickens defended his position and the two cars touched.

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But on the restart, Rossi attempted to put his #27 Andretti Autosport Honda inside of Wickens heading into Turn 1 at the end of the Albert Whitted Airport runway straight, but Rossi's vehicle slid wide and the two made contact. Wickens was only the third driver since 1993 to win the pole for his IndyCar debut - Nigel Mansell did it in 1993 at Surfers Paradise and Bourdais at St. Pete in 2003 - and the victory would have been a firm announcement of his arrival in the American open-wheel series.

And instead of a sure podium finish, Wickens was 18th and completely "disheartened".

Rossi said that he was told to use the push-to-pass as he was going through Turns 13 and 14 leading to the restart. I thought we would have had a good fight. If you want to go there, all the more power to you. But I think maybe Alex found the limit because as far as I'm aware, he's not getting a penalty for what he did, which is kind of interesting to me. He was sidelined past year after a devastating qualifying crash at Indianapolis kept him from racing for most of 2017. As the leader, I didn't have the opportunity to control the pace. I could build a gap when I needed to build a gap.

"We got lucky. Even if Sebastien had got a proper qualifying run in, we wouldn't have been at the front".

"So I got a big jump on Rob and he got to the push-to-pass pretty late, so the run was ideal for me". "The run was flawless for me going into turn 1, and I knew there wasn't going to be very many other opportunities. I can't quite put it into words".

Andretti looked great in this opening race, which is a relief for IndyCar fans after we watched them struggle so much with technical difficulties and bad breaks in the 2017 season.

"I think bumping is important to the 500 because it's always been such a big part of the 500, the story, how many people failed, how many people made it at the last second", Rahal said. They have made their way into IndyCar, and it's come at the expense of veterans.

At St. Pete, the winning driver came from Dale Coyne Racing.

"They made it very clear in the drivers' meeting that the rule on blocking was you can't move in reaction", Rossi explained.

"If he'd defended the inside initially out of 14 or even halfway down the straight, and I'd still continued to go to the inside, then yeah, that's my decision to put my auto in danger". "I've known him since he was a baby; his parents had me take a picture with him at the [Toronto] Molson Indy race when he was an infant, and then he was with my team where I won the [Champ Car] championship, Forsythe Racing, in Atlantics when he was 15 or 16, before he ventured off to Europe. I don't have to be all four wheels in the part of the track that nobody goes on".

"If you were in the lead of the race with two to go and you didn't finish, you'd be upset", Rossi said.

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