It was a weekend any driver would be happy with, but a series newcomer? He should be thrilled.
Robert Wickens, driver of the No. 6 Lucas Oil Honda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, came into the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg weekend ready to kick off his rookie season and prove that he was ready to race in the Verizon IndyCar series.
Friday, during the first two practices for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg he finished sixth and then seventh.
On Saturday, despite finishing 16th in the third practice ahead of qualifying. During the qualifying session, he was able to shine – even in rainy conditions. The Canadian earned pole.
When the green flag flew on Sunday, Wickens quickly showed that he had the car to beat. He led laps and had good pit stops, which helped him keep track position when the second to last caution came out.
On the restart, Wickens retained the lead over fellow Honda driver Alexander Rossi to keep the lead. It seemed as if his first win—in his first start—was in sight. However, the two made contact and Wickens ended up spinning bringing out the caution that would end the race and hand the win to Sebastien Bourdais. A weekend that looked so promising for a first win ended in heartbreak as he finished in the 18th position.
“I gave him space around the outside. I broke late. I made the corner and then we had some contact, and obviously it put me into a spin into the wall. I ended my day with one lap left in the race,” a dejected Wickens said post-race.
Rather than placing all the blame on Rossi for the incident, Wickens noted race control’s inconsistency on restart policy in the ensuing spin.
“It was all a little bit confusing because I was told on the radio we were going green, but they didn’t turn the lights off the pace car, so I didn’t get the best restart I could have done. Probably the worst one of the whole day. I want to kind of speak to the officials to see why they didn’t turn the lights off the pace car before we went green but I don’t know,” he said.