DETROIT (June 12, 2021)—Race 1 of the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix was a crazy one to say the least. It took nearly three and a half hours to complete the grueling grind, which was stopped twice for accidents, but it yielded yet another fresh face in the NTT IndyCar Series winner’s circle, Marcus Ericsson!
Qualifying took place on race morning. Pato O’Ward won the pole while Sebastien Bourdais advanced out of the first round to the Firestone Fast 12 and started 10th in the No. 14 ROKiT Chevrolet. Teammate Dalton Kellett started 24th in the No. 4 K-Line Insulators Chevrolet.
Fuel strategies began as early as lap 2 as four cars dove into the pits to shed their alternate (red) tires while the pole winner O’Ward came in a lap later, while leading no less, to change to the primary compound tires. Bourdais told strategist Larry Foyt that the alternates were wearing fast and Foyt told him to pit on lap 5 which he did along with outside pole sitter Alexander Rossi.
The adjusted fuel strategy appeared to be working until lap 23 when the yellow came out for Felix Rosenqvist’s hard crash into the tires and concrete barrier in Turn 6. Difficulty in extricating Rosenqvist from the car (so as not to cause further injury) and the need to fix the track’s barrier, caused officials to stop the race three laps later.
Rosenqvist was transported to the hospital and will be kept overnight for evaluation; INDYCAR Medical Director Dr. Geoffrey Billows issued this statement: “Following his crash during the race Felix Rosenqvist received an initial evaluation at the infield care center at Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix. He was then transferred to Detroit Receiving Hospital for advanced imaging and evaluation by the trauma and neurological services. Evaluation revealed no life or limb threatening injuries, he remains awake and alert, he will be observed overnight prior to discharge from the hospital.” The team announced this evening that Oliver Askew will drive tomorrow for Rosenqvist.
Bourdais, who was running ninth at the time, was caught out by the yellow along with the eight cars ahead of him. They all had to pit for fuel once the race resumed under caution. Bourdais dropped to 18th (behind those who did not have to pit) despite a solid stop.
A second red flag with five laps to go set up the strange sequence of events. Romain Grosjean crashed in Turn 9 at a narrow part of the course causing officials to throw a second red flag to allow emergency crews to remove his car safely.
Will Power, who had led the most laps, saw his chance for his first win of the season evaporate when his car failed to start after the second red flag which was brought on by Romain Grosjean’s crash in turn 9. Grosjean was not injured.
The race was restarted about 10 minutes later. Bourdais worked his way back to 11th by the end of the 70-lapper.
“Kind of a mixed-bag day here in Detroit for race one,” said Bourdais, who appeared to be physically drained. “We started tenth, finished eleventh, with a lot of things going on so not entirely satisfied with the result. I feel like we had quite a fast car but didn’t quite catch the breaks and got a bit of an unlucky yellow so we’ll go back harder tomorrow, try and qualify higher up and get a better day.”
Kellett had an uneventful race. He posted solid pit stops and finished 18th which matches his best finishes of the season.
“Part one of the dual in Detroit is wrapped up bringing that No. 4 K-Line Insulators Team Chevy home P18 ,” said Kellett, adding, “relatively happy with that. Came in early to get off the reds as we’d been finding that there’s quite a bit of degradation there, so had to do a bit of fuel saving the last couple stints. Our pace on trying to hit a big fuel number was alright, so just need to find a little bit more and then we’ll be right in the hunt. The car feels really good. Definitely missed it in qualifying this morning, was on a kind of mid-seventeen and tagged the wall coming out of (turn) 11, so I know there’s a lot more in it for tomorrow morning.”
Following Ericsson across the line were: Rinus Veekay, O’Ward, Takuma Sato and Graham Rahal.
Qualifying for tomorrow’s race gets underway at 9 am ET. The race will be broadcast on NBC starting at 12 noon ET.