Still digesting his historic triumph last Sunday in Alabama, Chip Ganassi’s Álex Palou will face this weekend (April 23-25) the second race of the IndyCar season calendar, the St. Petersburg GP.
All eyes will be set on the young Spaniard driver this weekend after he left the paddock speechless at the opening round at the Barber Motorsport. In fact, rivals will want to see if that victory was a stroke of good fortune or if they are actually facing a serious new contender for the crown.
The St. Petersburg GP, unfortunately, does not seem the most appropriate event for Palou to assert his worth. His team has only won once in Tampa Bay with Darío Franchitti in 2011.
Palou’s teammate, the Australian Scott Dixon, is living proof of the challenge. The crown defender has climbed onto the podium on six occasions in Florida but has never got to the top step.
In any case, Palou, whose car will be sporting a special blue livery for the occasion, will take the start as the leader of the IndyCar standings and nobody can take that away from him.
Yup, we're soooooo down with this shade of blue.
— Chip Ganassi Racing (@CGRTeams) April 20, 2021
Josef Newgarden is one of the the most prominent name to take the win at the 18th edition of the St. Petersburg GP amongst the large group worthy contenders.
The driver from Penske will be seeking a third consecutive victory in St. Pete, and incidentally, redeeming himself from the accident he suffered on the first lap at Barber.
If Newgarden succeeds in his endeavour, he would match Helio Castroneves’ record, although statistically speaking, the odds are not in his favour. Neither his former Brazilian teammate (2006, 2007, 2012), nor Will Power (2010, 2014), nor Juan Pablo Montoya (2015, 2016), nor Sébastien Bourdais (2017, 2018) has achieved a third consecutive victory in Tampa.
Another former winner at St. Petersburg GP (2012), and someone is bound to put up a good fight, is James Hinchcliffe. Pato O’Ward will also face the commitment in great shape after his spectacular pole in Alabama.
It was in fact only a poor team strategy (Arrows-McLaren SP), that trumped his bid for the gold. This time around, the American pilot is determined to make up for the Barber fiasco in Tampa, where he finished third in 2020.
The Tampa circuit
The St. Petersburg GP at Tampa Bay (Florida) is one of the classic events of the season and is usually the curtain-raiser for the American championship. Its 2.8-kilometre-long route, which has the Albert Whitted Airport runway as its epicentre, will no doubt pose a great challenge for the contestants.
Barber’s more open and forgiving layout gives way to the concrete walls that line the track in Florida. Any mistake can result in a collision against those barriers, which makes it a track significantly slower than Alabama’s.
On top of that, there are the notoriously bumpy roads of Saint Petersburg, which are also part of the circuit. All of this makes the race in Florida a particularly tough test for rookies such as Frenchman Romain Grosjean or NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson, both of whom are keen to prove their potential.
Images of St. Petersburg GP: IndyCar.