Sebastien Bourdais admits he thought he’d “thrown away” any chance of a decent result at St Petersburg after crashing in qualifying – before scoring his sensational victory in the 2017 IndyCar season opener.
Bourdais crashed on his out lap in qualifying, relegating him to a 21st starting spot. But a perfectly-timed yellow flag, just after he pitted, promoted him to second place as the race panned out – and then he passed reigning champion Simon Pagenaud to score his remarkable win.
“Let’s face it, we got a lucky break with that yellow there to cycle to the front, which made up for my mistake in qualifying,” said Bourdais. “We definitely capitalized on that.
“It’s probably the hardest race to recover,” added Bourdais of the St Pete event. “Because it’s really hard to pass and every time we come here and it looks like we have a reasonable car – and that was the case this weekend – I threw it away [in qualifying]!
“I really didn’t know what to do with myself to be honest. To turn that result from yesterday to today is just… I don’t know what to say, just thanks to the guys.”
For 2017, Coyne not only invested in Bourdais for 2017 but also reunited the four-time Champ Car title winner with the race engineer from his dominant Newman/Haas Racing days, Craig Hampson.
Said Bourdais: “I feel it’s like we put the band back together, and winning the first one – hopefully we’ll have many more like this. Let’s just enjoy the moment. It’s been a great ride, we’ve got quality guys here. We’ve been dreaming of this day.”
Champion settles for second
Team Penske’s Pagenaud was full of praise for Bourdais, and settled for second. He started back in 14th after suffering brake issues in qualifying, but also got lucky with the yellow flags.
“I want to congratulate Sebastien, it’s tremendous what they did today,” said Pagenaud. “Honestly, he was untouchable. He was really strong, and we were too.
“I got very lucky at the start, which I’d say was very agitated, and I avoided the mess at Turn 3, I don’t know how.
“We moved up to ninth from 14th, and then I pushed really hard at the start of the final stint. But I pushed so hard, the tires really dropped off so I couldn’t keep up at the end. You have to try these things.
“I’m very happy to finish second, it was probably our hardest weekend since 2015.”