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IndyCar St. Pete

Ericsson shuns idea that St. Petersburg win wasn’t deserved

Marcus Ericsson believes he had the speed to beat Pato O’Ward to victory in St. Petersburg even without the Arrow McLaren driver's engine issue late on in the IndyCar opener.

Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Race Winner, Celebration

Following a poor final restart, Ericsson was applying pressure to leader O’Ward in the closing stages of Sunday's race when the Mexican ace suffered what was described as a “plenum event” that briefly zapped the car’s power under acceleration from the final turn. 

With Ericsson just 0.6s behind, the delay was enough to see the reigning Indy 500 champion claim the lead with four laps to go, before going on to seal the victory.

It was Ericsson’s fourth triumph in IndyCar, the 124th for Chip Ganassi in Indycar racing but only the second for the team in 20 races at St Petersburg.

“It seems whatever I do, people are thinking maybe I don't deserve it or stuff like that,” said the former Formula 1 driver, who is now in his fifth season of IndyCar racing.

“I’ve won a lot of races, four races now in IndyCar, and been at the top of the championship the last couple years, so I'm just going to keep to that.

“Obviously today I didn't want Pato to have a problem, but from what I heard the problem was because we were putting pressure on and they did a mistake or he did a mistake. And that's when these things can happen.

“I felt bad for Pato, but we were there to pick up on it. If I wasn't putting pressure on him and hunting him down, he would have been fine and we would have been second. But we were there right on his gearbox, and we got past.”

Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

Ericsson, who qualified fourth quickest of the Ganassi drivers, later added: “In the end, I did a bad restart, got out in the marbles, lost a couple seconds on Pato and had to hunt him down. But I knew our race pace was extremely good, so I could close that gap and put pressure on him. He had an issue, whatever happened there, but we were putting the pressure on, and then things can happen.

“I think we showed all weekend that we were fast, and it's obviously a perfect way to start the season for us.”

By strange coincidence, all four of Ericsson’s triumphs – Detroit and Nashville in 2021, Indy 500 in 2022 and today’s race – have come in races that have been red flagged.

“It seems when a lot of things are happening – people are making mistakes and things are happening in the races – we seem to be able to stay cool, both me in the car, and the guys on the strategy and pit stops and everything," he added. "And we seem to be able to get everything together in those situations.

“All those races are very high intensity races. It's not sort of straightforward races. You need to be ready to adjust your strategy, pitstops, restarts. There's a lot of things going on, and we seem to be very good at that. That's definitely one of our strengths.

“Not saying we cannot win without the red flag, but it's definitely been working for us.”

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Ericsson emphasised that he was planning a passing attempt on O’Ward at Turn 1 or Turn 10 in the final four laps.

“I think I knew over a stint we were probably a bit stronger than McLaren,” he remarked. “He looked to be struggling with the rears and I was catching him, and then I wanted to put pressure on him to try and see if he did a small mistake so I could get an opportunity to go for an overtake.

“Of course, second is a good start to the season but a win is perfect. I was going to put the pressure on and try and go for it. I had built up an advantage on the Push-to-Pass, as well, so I was definitely going to have a go.”

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