The 2013 Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg marks 10 years since the first open-wheel race on the streets of St. Pete. The Champ Car series raced here in February, 2003.
A bespectacled young Frenchman named Sebastien Bourdais made his debut on the U.S. shores that race. He took to the track and Lola-Ford Cosworth car like a duck to water, scoring the pole position for Newman/Haas Racing. His race was less successful, ending in 11th place after issues in the pits.
Meanwhile, Paul Tracy romped to the victory that kick-started his championship winning season. Michel Jourdain Jr. and Bruno Junqueira, who each had a one-off drive in IndyCar last year, completed the podium.
Bourdais (right, last year), is one of only four drivers from the inaugural St. Pete running who will also race here this year. Veterans Oriol Servia and Alex Tagliani were in the field, as was Ryan Hunter-Reay, in his Champ Car series debut. Hunter-Reay drove as teammate to KV Racing Technology co-owner, Jimmy Vasser.
On Monday, the Formula 1 schedule finally allowed teams to be in Europe before heading to Abu Dhabi for this weekend’s season finale.
And as such, that provided a window for now four-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton to return to the Mercedes AMG Petronas factories in Brackley and Brixworth to be celebrated for taking the driver’s title, as Hamilton an Valtteri Bottas delivered Mercedes its fourth straight constructor’s title.
Hamilton was at Brixworth, the home of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) and its highly successful Mercedes-Benz Power Units first before heading to Brackley, where he was welcomed with a “guard of honor” as the entire team came out to greet him.
The champion was overwhelmed at the response and the welcome.
“This a very emotional day. I was not expecting this, thanks everyone for the warm welcome,” he said. “Today is something that I will never forget, turning up at the front gate of the factory and seeing everyone out on the street to welcome me – I’m blown away.
“This has been an incredible year, it’s been an incredible journey together. There’s a huge amount of respect and appreciation I have for everyone. I’ve been in the sport for a long time now, but to see the work ethic in Brixworth and Brackley really inspires me. Every time I come around, I see everyone operating at 100%, which encourages me to bring my best performance.
“Thank you all for helping me achieve my dreams, it would not have been possible without you. This is the best championship year, because we’ve been fighting another team and because we’ve had the difficulties and challenges we’ve had – that just makes it so much greater.”
A social roundup of images and videos are below, all via Hamilton and the Mercedes team on social media.