When a series is as hyped up as IndyCar has been this year, it’s easy for it to end up being a bit of a disappointment. But that absolutely wasn’t the case in St. Petersburg as Sebastien Bourdais took victory from 14th on the grid in an incredible opening race.
He made the most of a bunch of early caution periods to work his way towards the front, but looked like he was going to have to settle for third as Alexander Rossi and rookie Robert Wickens duked it out for the win.
Wickens had led most of the way from pole and although Rossi was gaining in the closing stages, a mistake whilst lapping backmarkers dropped him far enough back to make it look fairly comfortable for Wickens. Then Rene Binder binned it, bringing out a late caution.
The pace car came in, leaving a four-lap shootout, but Wickens once again stayed ahead. Job done, right? Nope – Max Chilton had an off and stalled it, bringing out another caution. Incredible work from the marshals got him going again and saw only one lap lost, leaving a two-lap shootout for the win. This time Rossi got a run on Wickens into turn one, only for this to happen:
In an instant, the fairytale of Wickens winning on debut was over as he was sent spinning into the wall. Bourdais snatched the win – his first since he won this race last year, and the first since he shattered his pelvis in a horrific crash in qualifying for the Indy 500.
Graham Rahal finished second as Rossi recovered to third. Stewards investigated his move but it wasn’t penalised. As heartbreaking as the outcome was for Wickens, calling it as a racing incident was probably the right one. You can’t really blame Rossi for going for it, can you?
It wasn’t just those closing laps that made it an exciting race, though. The whole thing was a thrill ride from start to finish and showed that IndyCar’s decision to reduce the downforce was absolutely the right one. Bring on the rest of the season!