The start was relatively clean with pole sitter Will Power leading Robert Wickens, Bourdais, and James Hinchcliffe down the main straight. Will got such a great start he’s actually out of shot here, gapping Wickens by around two car lengths before they even made it to the yard of bricks.
The field streamed toward Turn 1 in a tight, 24-car pack. Turn 1 is always tough here: the long maint straight lets the cars hit nearly 200 by the end, but the tight right-left chicane of Turns 1 and 2 force the cars to slow down to around 40. Not only does the track narrow, but Turn 1 is downhill. A pileup or some kind of contact is almost inevitable.
Sure enough, Takuma Sato ran wide into Turn 1. When he came back onto the track he bumped into Josef Newgarden, who bumped Simon Pagenaud. As Pagenaud’s car wiggled, he got tagged from behind by rookie Jordan King. Both cars went into the sand trap, though Pagenaud was able to escape under his own power. King would require a tow and bump start.
Moments later, King’s teammate Spencer Pigot ran wide at Turn 6 and jumped the curb, skidding off the track, and taking Sato with him. Neither car was damaged, though Pigot did need to pit so his team could ensure his car was OK. Despite getting a couple feet of air, Pigot was able to continue.
The track went full yellow to get King’s car restarted. When the field went green again on Lap 5, Power took off, trying to build a gap to Wickens. Will was able to build a couple car lengths, but Wickens refused to let Will get away.
Wickens has been the surprise of the season. Wickens has had a moderately successful career in DTM over the last few years and was the 2011 Formula Renault champion. He put the IndyCar world on blast by taking the pole at St Petersburg, his very first event! He damn near won the race too, but got tangled up with Rossi in a late race restart. He has been quick everywhere he goes too and wasn’t about to let Power get away without a fight.