Juan Pablo Montoya won his second Grand Prix of St Petersburg in the 2016 IndyCar series season opener ahead of teammate Simon Pagenaud, which featured the usual carambalge and close racing.
The Penske driver was able to capitalise on a caution halfway through the race, which occurred when a big pileup involving nearly half the field at another restart prompted many to pit for a new set of tyres. By the looks of the reply it was Carlos Munoz who tagged Graham Rahal heading into turn six, which spun the Rahal-Letterman driver around and into the path of Oriol Servia – who was replacing polesitter Will Power after he sustained a minor concussion. That led to the track blockage and multiple cars taking to pit road for repairs yet again.
Montoya emerged in second behind Dale Coyne Racing’s Connor Daly, who pitted eight laps before the Caution period on an alternate strategy. At the restart Montoya dived straight into the inside of Daly, who left him just enough space into turn two to take the lead and with it control the pace for the next 55 laps – despite suffering from a broken steering arm towards the end.
At this stage Daly had saved enough fuel during the caution period to stick with the Penske driver and his teammate Simon Pagenaud, who of course started from pole with Power’s absence. He made it to lap 81 before pitting for a new set of the Prime tyres, which meant the team were electing to go for the conservative route and a potential podium.
That was later shattered when Daly had to pit for front wing repairs and a water temperature issue which was fixed by removing debris from the sidepod inlets.
Scott Dixon also had to pit early with overheating problems, after falling down the order pretty quickly during the second restart. One man who did pass him was Helio Castroneves, who was having a much better second half of the race after struggling with front tyre wear at the start, which cost him a lot of positions and time against his Penske teammates. He finished fourth after being passed by a faster Ryan Hunter-Reay with three laps to go.
Meanwhile Marco Andretti’s afternoon was roiled with bad luck. After starting 14th and getting as high as 5th after the first round of pitstops, he looked like an early contender. However he made contact with Luca Flippi when making an optimistic move into turn one, which sent him spinning round and caused him to stall his engine. That brought out the first caution, then on the first attempted restart more issues plagued him, before getting caught up in the multi-car pileup later on.
Aleshin was perhaps the one who lucked into his position most after that, rounding out the top five and nearly challenging for fourth after him and Castroneves hit back marker traffic with two laps to go. Alexander Rossi took the top rookie honours in 12th place. He was another driver who sustained damage in the mid-race pileup, but made it into the points before losing out to the faster option tyre runners at the end.
Image Credit: Jasen Vinlove/USA Today