St Petersburg IndyCar: James Hinchcliffe claims maiden win
|By Mark Glendenning||Sunday, March 24th 2013, 19:42 GMT|
James Hinchcliffe took the first IndyCar win of his career in the season-opening race in St Petersburg.
The Canadian was a frontrunner throughout the afternoon and proved especially adept on restarts, claiming second from Will Power early in the race, retaking second from Power again on a subsequent restart, and then taking the lead from Helio Castroneves on a late restart when the Penske driver went wide at the first corner.
Hinchcliffe remained under constant pressure from Castroneves in the final laps, but held on to win by just over one second.
Completing the podium was Hinchcliffe's Andretti Autosport team-mate Marco Andretti, who took the position from Simona de Silvestro with two laps remaining. It was an encouraging result for the American, who spent the winter specifically working to address his weakness on street circuits.
De Silvestro, meanwhile, was a constant presence in the top five until fading tyres began to get the better of her in the closing laps.
Initially it seemed that her main threat was going to come from her new KV team-mate when Tony Kanaan worked his way up to her rear wing, but before the Brazilian could make a move he himself was passed by Andretti.
That left de Silvestro exposed, and while she was able to keep the Andretti Autosport car at bay for a couple of laps with the help of her last couple of hits of push-to-pass, she went wide into the last corner with two laps remaining and gave Andretti an easy route through.
To make matters worse she also lost places to Kanaan and Scott Dixon, who triumphed in a three-way drag race with the KV car and EJ Viso to claim fifth.
It was a great result for the Kiwi, who had started from 20th, and he felt that it could have been even better had he not lost a wastegate late in the race, resulting in a loss of boost on the restart.
Tristan Vautier made an impression on his IndyCar debut, running in the top six until an exhaust problem forced him to retire. An identical glitch also accounted for his team-mate Simon Pagenaud, and if the Schmidt Peterson team was frustrated, it at least had plenty of company.
Race one of Ryan Hunter-Reay's championship defence ended with a DNF when he was forced to park with a mechanical problem, while 2012 rival Power's afternoon did not go much better.
The Australian had led the opening stint before losing places to Castroneves and Hinchcliffe on restarts, but his real undoing came when JR Hildebrand became distracted by his cockpit controls and ran into the Penske car during a caution, launching himself into the air.
That forced Power into the pits to have a right-rear puncture repaired, and his race ended a short time later when he hit the barriers.
Other high-profile retirees included Dario Franchitti, who made a mistake on cold tyres and hit the Turn 3 wall on lap 18.
Results - 110 laps: Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. James Hinchcliffe Andretti Dallara-Chevy 2h22m12.5502s 2. Helio Castroneves Penske Dallara-Chevy + 1.0982s 3. Marco Andretti Andretti Dallara-Chevy + 16.3664s 4. Tony Kanaan KV Dallara-Chevy + 19.6083s 5. Scott Dixon Ganassi Dallara-Honda + 20.7627s 6. Simona de Silvestro KV Dallara-Chevy + 20.7890s 7. EJ Viso Andretti Dallara-Chevy + 20.8229s 8. Takuma Sato Foyt Dallara-Honda + 21.1878s 9. Justin Wilson Coyne Dallara-Honda + 21.6832s 10. Alex Tagliani Herta Dallara-Honda + 22.5569s 11. Sebastien Bourdais Dragon Dallara-Chevy + 22.7354s 12. Charlie Kimball Ganassi Dallara-Honda + 24.5429s 13. Graham Rahal Rahal Dallara-Honda + 37.5324s 14. Ed Carpenter Carpenter Dallara-Chevy + 45.2054s 15. James Jakes Rahal Dallara-Honda + 45.7793s 16. Will Power Penske Dallara-Chevy + 3 laps 17. Oriol Servia Panther/DRR Dallara-Chevy + 6 laps Retirements: Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti Dallara-Chevy 79 laps JR Hildebrand Panther Dallara-Chevy 78 laps Sebastian Saavedra Dragon Dallara-Chevy 72 laps Tristan Vautier Schmidt Dallara-Honda 69 laps Ana Beatriz Coyne Dallara-Honda 55 laps Josef Newgarden Fisher Dallara-Honda 50 laps Simon Pagenaud Schmidt Dallara-Honda 26 laps Dario Franchitti Ganassi Dallara-Honda 18 laps