ST. PETERSBURG, Fla – No driver has ever won the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Pete for three straight years. Just two of the 14 have won from a starting spot outside of the top 10. There’s a chance that both could happen for Sunday’s race (12:30 p.m. ET/NBCSN/IndyCar Radio Network), but if it’s going to happen, strategy is going to have to come into play to do so.
The qualifying session around the 1.8-mile Florida street circuit on Saturday was a wild one. So much, Sebastien Bourdais feels jobbed.
Marco Andretti brought out a red flag for stalling at pit entry with just three minutes into the first round. Then, not long after we went back green, DCR driver Santino Ferrucci got into the final turn too hot and ended up in the tire barriers bringing out the final red flag for the session. The problem is, there wasn’t a lot of time to lay down a hot lap in the meantime.
Bourdais meanwhile, was trying to run a lap when Andretti stalled. He went back out but was caught out when his teammate wrecked. As a result, his official qualifying speed is 4:58.540-seconds. He will start 19th now on Sunday because of it.
“I’m not quite sure what to say.,” a disappointed Bourdais said. “I didn’t even get a timed lap. I think the SealMaster Honda car is really competitive. It’s just a shame. I feel that we owe it to the fans, sponsors and teams to at least show something that’s representative, but the rules are there for a reason. However, the rules do not provide for something like this where you barely get any green flag time. I feel really bad for everybody. I guess we should have gone out right away, but that is easy to say now. The good news is the Dale Coyne with Vasser-Sullivan team has plenty of sticker (new) tires both the Firestone reds (alternate) and blacks (primary), so I am excited for tomorrow. Obviously, we will be playing the long game again. That’s all you can do from where we’ll start. We’ll give it our best shot. We’ve done it the last two years from there (won from the back of the field), so we know it’s possible.”
Simon Pagenaud was also caught out because of both incidents and will roll off 13th. That’s exactly where he finished last year.
Luckily for Bourdais, he came from the back the last two years though. He wrecked the exact same way Ferrucci did in 2017 and caught a break by an early race caution that fell in the middle of a pit sequence in which flipped the field. It would remain that way and he’d reach victory lane from the 21st starting spot.
Last year, he won from 14th.
Can he win again from 19th?
Bourdais’ car hasn’t been the best this weekend. He was only 11th, 18th and 14th respectively in practice. He does bring a lot of momentum with him from 2018 though with four top six finishes over the final five races of last year.
Can he get the right strategy calls to get to the front on Sunday?
Ferrucci, will start 23rd.