Juan Pablo Montoya held off an almighty charge from Team Penske team mate Will Power to claim his 13th Verizon IndyCar Series win at the season opening Grand Prix of St Petersburg.
Starting in fourth place, Montoya worked through the many, many caution periods and found himself in second place.
The caution periods, too many to keep track of if I was going to be cheeky but there had to have been at least half a dozen, were nearly all for one thing – debris. The new aero kits certainly provided drivers with more downforce but they were extremely fragile and the slightest knock would see front wing sections fly off and on to the track.
From lap 33, at the end of one caution period to lap 59 – the end of the last caution period – there were three caution periods, a few for debris but a few for clumsy collisions. The first saw Simona De Silvestro brake a bit too late into the last corner and hit the back of James Jakes, the Brit was left stranded at the edge of the corner and had to retire.
After that was recovered, Marco Andretti was tapped into a spin by Graham Rahal on the green flag lap and gently hit the tyre barrier at turn ten. Thankfully for Andretti, he would recover to finish in 10th place.
As all of this was happening the Team Penske squadron was forming up to carry on the domination they have displayed for the rest of the weekend.
In first and second, Power and Montoya were battling and then behind them in fourth and fifth Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud were also scrapping to see who could come out on top.
The one man splitting this cabal was NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing’s Tony Kanaan who couldn’t close up to the leading pair but managed to claim the last place on the podium by 0.2 seconds.
Before going back to the leading battle, a brief look at the back of the grid and the only two retirements of the race. Both were the Dayle Coyne Racing machines of Francesco Dracone and Carlos Huertas who both suffered from mechanical problems to take them out of the race.
Also having a bad day was Scott Dixon who had a number of issues throughout the race to finish down in 15th place.
Finishing just two places behind the Target backed Ganassi driver was the highest finishing rookie – Gabby Chaves. He had a rather unremarkable race but certainly put in decent race laps which will stand him in good stead for the rest of the season and he can only get better from here.
After that brief aside, now to the lead battle. A slow stop for Will Power with 28 laps to go saw him drop behind a flying Montoya who certainly had victory in sight.
Lap after lap the pair battled for the win, with only one incident between them – Power tried to dive down the inside going into turn ten. Fortunately for both of them the leading edge of Power’s front wing was the only loser.
With traffic breaking up the battle with only a handful of laps to go, Montoya managed to cross the line with almost one second in hand.
Team Penske filled 1,2,4 & 5, Kanaan took third with Sebastien Bourdais leading home Ryan Hunter-Reay in sixth and seventh. Completing the top ten was Jack Hawksworth (a remarkable result considering he started 21st), Luca Filippi and Marco Andretti.
The next round of the championship is in two weeks time as the grid travels to NOLA Motorsport Park for the inaugural Grand Prix of Louisiana.