Robert Wickens blames Alexander Rossi for late-race IndyCar collision
|By Tom Errington||Sunday, March 11th 2018, 21:58 GMT|
Schmidt Peterson Motorsport's Robert Wickens has blamed Alexander Rossi and IndyCar's inconsistent restart procedure for the loss of a debut IndyCar victory at St Petersburg.
Wickens took pole and then led 69 out of 110 laps in in a chaotic race that featured eight full-course yellows.
But at the end of the seventh caution, Wickens was slow to get away and allowed Rossi to close in heading to Turn 1.
Rossi moved to the inside and pulled alongside Wickens before losing control and pitching the SPM driver into a spin that left him 18th and the Andretti man third.
Wickens says that IndyCar's procedure of the restart had caught him out, but that Rossi was also to blame.
"I don't know what the series was doing really, but it never turned the lights off the pace car," Wickens said.
"They did an entirely different pace car procedure than what they had done every other yellow flag procedure the whole day.
"As the leader, I didn't have my opportunity to control the pace because we had just followed the pace car the whole time, then he just came into the pit.
"So I want some explanation on that to be honest with you.
IndyCar told Autosport that while the pace car lights had remained on, it had communicated to teams over the radio and that the pace car pulled into the pits in the usual procedure.
Wickens added that Rossi had braked too late after the restart.
"He obviously got a slipstream. I defended a little bit, but then I realised if I went any further, it would have been blocking, so I opened up, let him take the inside and just broke as late as possible and gave him enough space on the inside.
"From my point of view, he braked too late, the track was too dirty off-line.
"He just went too deep, locked the rears and slid into me. There's really no other explanation for it.
"The only pity is he carried on to a podium, and I ended up in the fence."
Wickens added that despite losing a potential victory, he was pleased with his debut performance in IndyCar.
"I'm very proud of the job that I did today," he said.
"I'm disappointed but in your rookie race, honestly, that's why I didn't really fight him [Rossi] that hard.
"I gave him more than enough space on the inside because even if I finished P2, I would have been ecstatic."
Rossi said that Wickens had to take some blame, but that he felt bad about the result.
"He [Wickens] defended the position, which he has the right to do, but he put me into the marbles pretty late into the corner," he said.
"It's difficult with these cars and with how much we're sliding around in the first place, even on the racing line.
"When you're put in the marbles, it's hairy.
"I feel bad because I feel like I could have won and he could have gotten second."