Sebastien Bourdais has been strong from the pole position and has re-taken control of Race 1 of the Honda Indy Toronto after mid-race pit stops under green.
Race 1 began inauspiciously when Luca Filippi clipped Simon Pagenaud and turned him around on the run up to Turn 5.
When the field behind them checked up, Josef Newgarden was hit from behind by Takuma Sato, and Mike Conway also spun backwards before coming to a stop away from the wall.
The incident brought out a red flag for cleanup, which forced a stop to repairs to Newgarden’s car behind the pit wall. That raised the ire of his team owner, Sarah Fisher, who brought up Will Power’s Team Penske crew being able to fix his car during yesterday’s red flags (Power had to start today’s race from the rear of the field).
“They got to fix the 12 car no problem, and everybody down here – we’ve got technical directors, we’ve got everybody not letting us work on our car,” Fisher told NBCSN.
“I just want to know what the rules are and stick to them. I’m just really frustrated right now because we were at the front of that. We would’ve gotten through it but we got hit from behind and it is what it is.”
However, the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team eventually decided to go ahead with their repairs under the red flag.
As for others involved in the first-lap incident, Sato did not return to the race and no action was taken by race control on Filippi and Pagenaud’s contact; Pagenaud continued on but took the restart at Lap 4 at the rear of the field along with Newgarden and Carlos Munoz.
After the field returned to green flag racing, Newgarden came back to the pits for a drive-through penalty due to said repairs. Bourdais got a good jump at the restart and started to stretch his lead, while behind him, Hunter-Reay passed Castroneves for second in Turn 5 after the two went side by side through the tight Turn 3/4 complex.
On Lap 11, Pagenaud’s team decided to go off-strategy by bringing in the Frenchman for a set of sticker primary “black” tires.
Six laps later, Filippi ran wide and hit the wall as he was working his way onto the front-stretch. A few turns later, the Italian was spotted going slow down Lakeshore Boulevard, while ahead of him, Carlos Huertas went into the tire barriers at Turn 3 to bring out yellow No. 2.
Filippi told NBCSN that the extra understeer caused by his damaged front wing from the Pagenaud incident helped lead to his accident.
“I had so much understeer because of the downforce levels that I was losing, so I was always struggling…In that lap, I went a little off the line because of the extra understeer and basically, I went in the marbles and hit the wall slightly – actually, more than slightly – and that was it,” he said.
A couple of drivers chose to pit under this caution, but Bourdais and the rest of the leaders stayed out for the restart at Lap 20. The Top 5 – Bourdais, Hunter-Reay, Castroneves, Kanaan and Dixon – stayed in that order until just before halfway, when Castroneves got past Hunter-Reay in Turn 1 for second at Lap 33.
The leaders headed to pit road shortly afterwards with Bourdais pitting from the lead at Lap 34. Pagenaud eventually rose up to the lead ahead of Bourdais by virtue of his strategy play at Lap 11, but eventually gave way for his own stop at Lap 41.
Just before that, Hunter-Reay and Kanaan made contact going into Turn 3 that sent the former into the wall exiting the turn. NBCSN replays showed that Bourdais hit the debris from the accident, but a report said that the Frenchman’s tire pressures were OK after the contact.