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Bourdais aiming for repeat of 2017 St. Petersburg success

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Sebastien Bourdais had his emotions on display after winning last year’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, even getting choked up during his Victory Lane interview. But, when you think of the surrounding circumstances around that victory – Bourdais is a resident of St. Petersburg and came from 21st and last on the grid to win – his emotional reaction becomes much more understandable.

I live in St. Petersburg and am very proud to be a resident,” Bourdais explained. “Downtown is booming and our neighborhood is a great environment to raise a family. St. Pete is my home race and it is an honor to represent the city during race weekend.”

Sebastien Bourdais and Dale Coyne Racing celebrate victory at St. Petersburg in 2017. Photo: IndyCar

Further, the streets of St. Petersburg have been an important part of his career. Bourdais made his U.S. debut at St. Pete in 2003, where he also grabbed the pole, but a victory there had always alluded him.

“My first IndyCar race was here in 2003 and I took the pole, but until last year I really didn’t have a lot of success,” Bourdais detailed. “It took 15 years, and now I am the defending champion and that feels good. I don’t feel any additional pressure to do well, but it’s nice to be able to sleep in my own bed and have friends and family at the track.”

Bourdais and Coyne are also keen to make up for a 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season that got away from them. Bourdais led the championship after three races in 2017, with finishes of first, second, and eighth in those three races. But, after getting caught up in a Lap 1 crash at ISM Raceway and suffering a Lap 3 engine failure at the INDYCAR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he dropped to seventh in the standings.

However, those struggles paled in comparison to what happened next. Bourdais’ horrific crash during Indianapolis 500 qualifying resulted in several fractures to his hip and pelvis, sidelining him for the next three months. Although he returned for the final three races of the season, 2017 was a year of what might have been for Bourdais and Coyne.

However, Bourdais enters 2018 reinvigorated as part of a bolstered Coyne operation that sees former KVSH Racing partners Jimmy Vasser and James “Sully” Sullivan join the venture, with new sponsor SealMaster adorning Bourdais No. 18 Honda.

Sebastien Bourdais sees a new sponsor SealMaster and new partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sully” Sullivan join his Dale Coyne Racing effort. Photo: IndyCar

“This is a small team, but we have proven we can take poles and win races. However, I think we are now putting together what hopefully is a consistent program that can compete at the highest level and contend for a championship,” Bourdais said of their prospects ahead of the 2018 season.

Bourdais and Coyne will look to build on their successes from 2017 and become championship contenders throughout the 2018 season.


Mercedes: F1 teams need to work together to avoid split

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said Friday that Formula One teams have a responsibility to try to overcome their differences over the future of the sport in the face of a threat by Ferrari to quit because of a number of proposed changes.

Bernie Ecclestone, who ran F1 for 40 years before being replaced by new owners Liberty Media last year, has raised the possibility that Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne could walk away from F1 and form a breakaway series over Liberty’s future vision for the sport.

Ferrari is unhappy with Liberty’s proposal to simplify engines and redistribute prize money among F1 teams after the current contract with teams expires at the end of 2020.

Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene would not comment on the specifics of Marchionne’s previous comments at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Friday, but said: “My only suggestion, please take him seriously.”

Wolff is also taking the possibility of Ferrari walking away seriously. He told Britain’s Press Association before the Australian GP that he agreed with Marchionne’s concerns and that Formula One can’t afford to alienate Ferrari or lose the team.

“Don’t mess with Sergio Marchionne,” he said. “Formula One needs Ferrari much more than Ferrari needs Formula One.”

Wolff was more diplomatic on Friday, saying he hopes all sides could come together for the good of the sport.

“I think this as much a battle on track as much as it is a fight off track for an advantage,” he said. “It is clear the current governance and how the rules are being made is not very functional. There’s too much different opinions and agendas on the table and we need to sort it for 2021 for the best interest of the sport.”

Red Bull boss Christian Horner agreed there are too many competing agendas, suggesting that the FIA-Formula One’s governing body-and Liberty Media come together to decide on a set of regulations and financial framework for the next contract and the teams can then decide if they want to accept it or not.

“Trying to get a consensus between teams that have varying objectives, different set-ups, is going to be impossible,” he said. “It’s history repeating itself. It happens every five or six years, every time the Concorde Agreement comes up for renewal.”

Tempers also flared during Friday’s media conference over another issue of contention between the teams – Ferrari’s recent hiring of FIA’s ex-safety director, Laurent Mekies.

Horner believes Ferrari broke an agreement among teams at a recent meeting to institute a 12-month waiting period for any former employee of FIA or FOM (Formula One Management) to be able to start working for one of F1’s teams. The concern is that former FIA staff who go to work for a specific team could share secrets from other teams.

“Certain teams were pushing for that period to be three years, but in the end it was agreed upon being 12 months,” he said. “It almost makes those meetings pointless if we can’t agree on something and action it.”

Arrivabene defended Ferrari’s move, saying Mekies would not join its team until after a six-month “gardening leave” period.

“There is nothing wrong with that because we were absolutely respecting the local law, the Swiss local law where Laurent was hired,” he said.