(ST PETERSBURG, FL) – One thing was for certain. The twice-straight winner of the St Petersburg Grand Prix Juan Pablo Montoya was not going to make it a third win in a row. Unlikely was the last to first finish for Sebastien Bourdais
Qualifying 21st, Bourdais inched his No. 18 Honda through the pack to take the opening race of the 2017 IndyCar series, coving the 198 miles 10.35 seconds in front of runner-up Simon Pagenaud. Bourdais secured his 36th IndyCar victory after passing Pagenaud on the 84th lap and holding on the the remaining 26 circuits.
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As a resident of St Petersburg, Bourdais had an advantage on the temporary street course.
“To come out on top with obviously a lot of friends and family on-site, the whole community supporting the effort, it was just a great feeling,” the race winner said. “I couldn’t really be any happier for Honda and Dale (Coyne) for giving me the opportunity to put the band back together and make it happen.”
Bourdais crashed in Turn 13 during the first qualifying and started the race from the 21st spot, but moved up under a yellow flag, leading 69 of the first 84 laps.
“I have no idea what happened, everything felt fine in Turn 10. I got on the brakes and got to the last corner and nothing happened,” Bourdais said of the crash. “I locked up the inside front and never really slowed down properly. It never happened before.”
It was the second year in a row that Pagenaud finished in the runner-up’s position. This year he started from the 14th position after qualifying.
“Well, we’re certainly disappointed, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to pack up and go home,” the defending IndyCar champion said after qualifying. “The PPG Chevrolet team and I will go to work and figure out how we can improve.”
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After the race, Pagenaud was happy with his performance and that of Bourdais.
“We had to save quite a bit of fuel to manage till the end,” he said. “Bourdais was untouchable today. It’s 1-2 French. Sorry for the French Revolution, guys. I’m very happy for him.”
Scott Dixon, driving the No. 9 Honda also finished on the podium in 3rd place. Dixon was the fastest driver in practice, but qualified 2nd behind Will Power. He was unhappy about the early caution at the star of the race.
“It started off a little bit rough. We lost a spot at the start and then there was the mysterious caution. It was a bit strange,’ Dixon said. “I don’t know why they were yellow for such a small piece of debris that wasn’t even on the racing line. That pretty much put us in the toilet right there. I will go see what the story was there.”
Montoya is racing part time this season for Team Penske. He will participate in only the Indianapolis 500 and the preceding Indianapolis Grand Prix.
The St Petersburg Grand Prix has opened the 17-race IndyCar series for the past seven years. The next stop is the Grand Prix of Long Beach over the April 7-9 weekend.
St Petersburg Race Results
- (21) Sebastien Bourdais, Honda, 110, Running
- (14) Simon Pagenaud, Chevrolet, 110, Running
- (2) Scott Dixon, Honda, 110, Running
- (12) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Honda, 110, Running
- (5) Takuma Sato, Honda, 110, Running
- (16) Helio Castroneves, Chevrolet, 110, Running
- (15) Marco Andretti, Honda, 110, Running
- (4) Josef Newgarden, Chevrolet, 110, Running
- (3) James Hinchcliffe, Honda, 110, Running
- (18) Ed Jones, Honda, 110, Running
- (8) Alexander Rossi, Honda, 109, Running
- (6) Tony Kanaan, Honda, 109, Running
- (19) JR Hildebrand, Chevrolet, 109, Running
- (17) Mikhail Aleshin, Honda, 109, Running
- (20) Conor Daly, Chevrolet, 109, Running
- (7) Max Chilton, Honda, 109, Running
- (10) Graham Rahal, Honda, 108, Running
- (9) Charlie Kimball, Honda, 105, Running
- (1) Will Power, Chevrolet, 99, Mechanical
- (13) Spencer Pigot, Chevrolet, 71, Mechanical
- (11) Carlos Munoz, Chevrolet, 32, Mechanical
IndyCar Series Point Standings
- Bourdais 53,
- Pagenaud 41,
- Dixon 35,
- Hunter-Reay 32,
- Sato 31,
- Castroneves 28,
- Andretti 26,
- Newgarden 24,
- Hinchcliffe 23,
- Jones 20.