After winning last Saturday’s 2018 Grand Prix of Indianapolis, Team Penske‘s Will Power has stated that he believes rookie Robert Wickens – whom he battled for the lead with earlier in the race – will become a champion of the Verizon IndyCar Series in the future.
Power and Wickens were battling one way or another throughout the weekend’s running. In qualifying on Friday, Wickens looked to have the upper hand in the opening sessions, only for Power to reclaim the top spot in the final session; taking pole position by just a hundredth of a second in his #12 Team Penske Chevrolet.
In the race, Power got the jump early, with Wickens falling in behind on the run down to turn one. Wickens stayed on the gearbox of Power throughout the opening stint, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Penske opting for differing strategies for the second stint.
Wickens would come out on the faster red tyres, with Power on the slower black tyres. Wickens would soon use the extra grip to pass Power and build up a lead, but when the tables turned for the second stint, Power would re-pass Robert and streak ahead.
For the final stint, the focus of the entire field was on fuel saving after a full-course caution. Wickens was somewhat at a disadvantage, having spent his last few years in DTM where he would rarely have to save fuel. As a result, he would lose second place to Scott Dixon, but he would still come home on the podium in third; with Power pulling away out front to take his first win of the year.
“Yeah, it was an amazing race actually,” Power said in post-race interviews, “Obviously, Wickens came out on reds and I was on blacks and man, I’ve never driven so hard to watch a gap grow. But, obviously when I went to the reds, then I had to try to pass him back. And then, he had to save a lot of fuel at the end and go fast; because I knew how good Dixon is at saving fuel and going fast.
“But the Chevy had great fuel mileage, and I’ve never driven so hard for an entire race. Like I was 100 percent the whole time. I’m exhausted.”
Later on, Power would go on to praise Wickens and how well he has performed in his first IndyCar races. With Robert having scored three podiums in his first five races – including at his first oval race at ISM Raceway, Power would tell motorsport.com that he believed the rookie could be a champion someday, maybe even this season:
“I haven’t raced him enough, but we passed each other twice no problem and it was clean racing,” Power would say, “He’s obviously very good. I think big fuel saving is probably a new thing for him – Dixon and myself have been doing it our whole careers and we’re used to trying to extract lap time and fuel save.
“But I tell you, [Wickens] has been racing at a high level for a long time…he’s definitely, a guy that will be a champion in IndyCar. I have no doubt in my mind, at some point and in the right situation – and that could be this year!”
“I have to work on my fuel save game a little bit!” said Robert whilst laughing, “Hats off to the Lucas Oil guys – we had a great first stint. We had an even better second stint, and then Will and I had a great little battle when I was on the blacks, he was on the reds. I guess I’m not as efficient at fuel saving as they are, but we made it.
“Scott [Dixon] got behind me on push-to-pass, and I was instructed not to do much because of [the] fuel save. In the end, I’m really happy to be on the podium. It’s frustrating because it feels like you’re driving so slowly because it feels like you’re lifting for what feels like an eternity before the corner, but then the team was reassuring me that Rossi and Bourdais had to do the same thing.
“It wasn’t comfortable by any means. It was the first time in my career I’ve had to save fuel like that, but in the end, happy with the podium. Would have liked to be a bit further up, but hard to complain.”
The next on-track action for Power and Wickens will come tomorrow in the first practice session for the 2018 Indianapolis 500. Qualifying will take place this upcoming weekend, on May 19 and 20, with the race taking place a week later on May 27.