Spectacular Robert Wickens claims St. Pete pole on Indycar debut

Autosport

Robert Wickens claimed pole position for his IndyCar debut at St. Petersburg, taking top spot with the final lap of a drizzly session.

The Canadian was the only driver in the Fast Six to complete his time on the slower black tyre compound, and usurped Will Power in the dying seconds of the session with a lap of 1m01.6643.

Schmidt Peterson’s Wickens was one of three rookies to make it into the final part of qualifying, as fellow debutants Matheus Leist and Jordan King placed third and fourth respectively.

Takuma Sato will begin his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing career from fifth, alongside Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Andretti’s Hunter-Reay narrowly missed out on a chance to advance to the Fast Six after taking seventh in the second qualifying session, but was promoted to sixth after team-mate Alexander Rossi had his two fastest times deleted for interference.

Marco Andretti suffered a similar fate to Rossi at the conclusion of the first part of qualifying, allowing Sato into the 12-car shootout.

Wickens’ team-mate James Hinchcliffe wound up seventh, ahead of Gabby Chaves and Scott Dixon, while Tony Kanaan completed the top 10.

2016 champion Simon Pagenaud could only manage 11th, having been caught out by the light rain that arrived towards the end of the second qualifying session, spinning at Turn 1 on each of his final three laps. The last of those spins brought out the second of two red flags during qualifying.

The penalised Rossi was classified 12th, ahead of reigning champion Josef Newgarden, who struggled to get up to speed in the first part of qualifying, missing the cut-off by just two tenths of a second.

Last year’s St. Petersburg winner Sebastien Bourdais took 14th, ahead of Zach Veach, who led his qualifying group for much of the session, only to miss out on advancing by five hundredths of a second.

Graham Rahal caused the first red flag of qualifying, spinning at Turn 10 towards the end of his session, and is set to start the race from 24th as a result.

Spectacular Robert Wickens claims St. Pete pole on Indycar debut

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