2018 Verizon IndyCar Series: Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – Preview


Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar

After almost half a year of waiting, the offseason for the Verizon IndyCar Series is finally over. This weekend, the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series kicks off with the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Fans can look forward to what promises to be a fantastic season of IndyCar racing, so to kick off, here is our rundown of what to expect from round one.

WHAT HAPPENED IN 2017 AT ST. PETE?

The 2017 season-opening race was decided on strategy calls. Will Power may have started on pole position for Team Penske, but despite having started from the rear of the field, Dale Coyne Racing‘s Sebastien Bourdais ended up in victory lane after driving a perfect race in the #18 Honda.

Tony Kanaan and Mikhail Aleshin came together during the race and brought out a caution right in the middle of green flag pit-stops. The leader at the time, James Hinchcliffe, lost a lot of ground during the ensuing yellow flag pit-stops. All this put Bourdais, who had pitted prior to the caution, to the front of the pack ahead of the previous leaders. From there, the Frenchman never looked back, cruising home to win by ten seconds over fellow countryman Simon PagenaudScott Dixon would complete the podium for Chip Ganassi Racing. 

Will Power’s race fell apart as the event wore on. After starting from pole position he was soon passed by Hinchcliffe for the lead of the race. He then received a penalty later on in the race for running over a hose in the pit-lane. To cap it all off, he retired from the race in the closing stages after slowing on-track with a handful of laps remaining.

You can read the full qualifying and race reports from last year’s Grand Prix of St. Petersburg here: 

WHAT SHOULD I LOOK OUT FOR THIS YEAR?

2018 sees the introduction of the much anticipated universal aero-kit for all of the Verizon IndyCar Series cars. During the last few years, Honda and Chevrolet have had separate aerodynamic styling on the cars that they power. This year, every car will have the same body kits, which feature a large reduction in the number of aerodynamic elements. This will change the way that the cars handle, as the drivers will have a lot less aerodynamic grip in mid to high-speed corners. With the cars being more difficult to drive compared to the last few years, it will be interesting to see which drivers adapt quickly and which drivers struggle; especially on the fast but narrow streets of St. Pete.

You should also keep an eye on the progress of a number of drivers this weekend. Sebastien Bourdais won last year’s race at a canter after a sublime race, but his title chances were thwarted later in the season after being injured in Indianapolis 500 qualifying. It will be interesting to see whether Bourdais’ misfortune last year will fire him up for a charge at the title this year.

Josef Newgarden enters 2018 with his first IndyCar Series title under his belt. The young American was fantastic last year despite getting to grips with his new home at Team Penske. Will Josef be even faster this year now that he’s well and truly bedded in with the team and full to the brim of confidence now that he’s a champion? St. Petersburg will mark the start of what Newgarden hopes will be a successful championship defence. Will he get a good start, or will his year begin on rocky foundations?

Finally, be on the lookout for Carlin. The British team will make their first IndyCar series start this weekend in St. Pete. The team has been successful in every series they’ve entered in their illustrious single-seater career so far. The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be the first time we can accurately compare them to their rivals in IndyCar. Will they impress early with their drivers Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball, or will they have a mountain to climb after round one?

WHAT IS THE SCHEDULE FOR THE WEEKEND?

Friday 9 March

16:20 GMT / 11:20 ET – Practice 1
20:10 GMT / 15:10 ET – Practice 2

Saturday 10 March

16:10 GMT / 11:10 ET – Practice 3
19:20 GMT / 14:20 ET – Qualifying

Sunday 11 March

17:30 GMT / 12:30 ET – Race

WHERE CAN I WATCH THE GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG?

Tickets are still available for this weekend’s race. Head to the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg website for more information.

In the United Kingdom, television coverage is limited to just the race itself. Race day coverage will start at 16:00BST on BT Sports ESPN.

Coverage of practice and qualifying will be available in the UK on IndyCar’s Facebook and YouTube channels.

In the United States, television coverage for the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be provided by ABC, with added broadcasts on Facebook and YouTube courtesy of IndyCar.

HOW CAN I KEEP UP TO DATE WITH ALL OF THE ACTION OVER THE WEEKEND?

If you are not lucky enough to be at St. Petersburg for the season-opening IndyCar, you can keep up to date with all the action across the weekend right here at The Checkered Flag. We will have coverage of not just this weekend’s practice, qualifying and race sessions, but for all on-track action throughout the season.

Be sure to also follow IndyCar on Twitter – @IndyCar – for live updates throughout the event.

WHERE IS THE ST. PETE STREET CIRCUIT?

1 Beach Dr SE #42, St. Petersburg, FL 33701, USA