Sebastien Bourdais wins IndyCar season opener from last on the grid
Sebastien Bourdais scored a spectacular win from last on the grid at Sunday’s season-opening Firestone Grand Prix in front of his home fans on the Streets of St. Petersburg in Florida.
Dale Coyne Racing used strategy to get Bourdais and teammate Ed Jones up toward the front of the field after a couple of early cautions.
Will Power had led the field away from pole while James Hinchcliffe moved up to second ahead of Scott Dixon.
Further back in the pack, It didn’t take long for the drama to break out as the first caution flew for a multi-car collision on Lap 1. Graham Rahal, Charlie Kimball, Carlos Munoz, Mikhail Aleshin and Helio Castroneves all had to pit after sustaining damage in the incident.
On the restart, Hinchcliffe leapfrogged up one more spot to take the lead, pushing Power back to second.
Unfortunately for Power, he came in on Lap 15 for an unscheduled stop and then ran over an air hose leaving his pit stall, forcing him to serve a drive-through penalty. Consequently, he was off-sequence with the rest of the field and was forced to back off in the closing stages to save fuel, costing him multiple positions.
Ten laps after Power’s unscheduled stop, the second caution of the race flew when Mikhail Aleshin and Tony Kanaan came together. Both cars continued, but there was a lot of debris scattered on the circuit.
The caution was bad news for the drivers up front that had yet to pit such as Hinchcliffe and Dixon, who had to pit under the yellow allowing Simon Pagenaud to move up to the top spot. During the stops, Spencer Pigot suffered a brake failure which put him out of contention after a solid run early on.
Pagenaud led the field away back under green, but lost it on Lap 37 to Sebastien Bourdais who had started from the rear of the field after crashing during qualifying.
The Dale Coyne Racing driver continued to pace the field throughout the middle portion of the race, building up a lead ahead of Pagenaud.
However, following the last round of stops the defending champion began to cut into Bourdais’ lead, but Bourdais was able to hold on to take the win.
“It’s probably the hardest race to recover, the windows are super narrow and it’s really hard to pass,” explained an emotional Bourdais after the race. “Every time we come here and it looks like we’ve got a reasonable car – and it was the case, it was a pretty good car – and I just threw it away [in qualifying yesterday], and I just really didn’t know what to do with myself to be honest. And to turn that – from the result from yesterday – to today, I just don’t know what to say except thank you to the guys… It’s the first one, putting the band back together and hopefully we’ll have many more days like that.”
Dixon rounded out the podium while Hunter-Reay and Sato rounded out the top five. Sato’s finish came after a slow final stop while Hunter-Reay had bounced back from a crash during warm-up and an unscheduled stop at the start of the race.
1. Sebastien Bourdais
2. Simon Pagenaud
3. Scott Dixon
4. Ryan Hunter-Reay
5. Takuma Sato
6. Helio Castroneves
7. Marco Andretti
8. Josef Newgarden
9. James Hinchcliffe
10. Ed Jones
11. Alexander Rossi
12. Tony Kanaan
13. J.R. Hildebrand
14. Mikhail Aleshin
15. Conor Daly
16. Max Chilton
17. Graham Rahal
18. Charlie Kimball
19. Will Power – DNF
20. Spencer Pigot – DNF
21. Carlos Munoz – DNF