Robert Wickens says that confusion over the pace car lights contributed to the poor final restart that exposed him to the ill-fated attack from Alexander Rossi in the closing stages of the IndyCar curtain-raiser at St Petersburg on Sunday.
The Canadian rookie had controlled much of the race in his Schmidt Peterson Motorsport entry and comfortably held the pursuing Rossi at bay during another restart a few laps earlier.
But for the last restart, the safety car lights did not turn off to indicate the imminent return to green. Rossi remained close enough to launch an attack as they entered Turn 1, resulting in contact that dumped Wickens from P1 to P18.
“I don’t know what the series was doing really, but it never turned the lights off the pace car, and they did an entirely different pace car procedure than what they had done every other yellow flag procedure the whole day,” he said. “As the leader I didn’t have my opportunity to control the pace because if 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.”
Following the race, IndyCar issued a statement conceding that the lights had remained on, but confirming that all other protocol had been followed:
“INDYCAR acknowledged that the pace car lights remained on for the race’s final restart, but the radio call for an impending restart was communicated by race control and the pace car pulled off the track as it had in previous situations.”