Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg Preview Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg Dario Franchitti won last year's race

After a long off-season full of reinvention and reflection, the IndyCar series fraternity gathers again to go racing over a new season, beginning this weekend at the Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg. In what was his adopted home with his family in America, the memory of the late Dan Wheldon has been immortalised with a local street renamed in his honour. Appropriately also, the street forms part of the race circuit, at Turn 10.

While the field will be racing with heavy hearts and the threat of wounds reopening, the first race of the 2012 season will get people back thinking of racing in a more positive light, and with new cars, engines and drivers, the series sports a whole new identity this time around, as we outlined extensively in our season preview, which you can read here.

The Circuit

St Petersburg Circuit Map

Date: 23-25 March 2012
Lap Length: 1.8 miles / 2.9km
Race Lap Record: 1:00.928, Sébastien Bourdais (Lola B02/00 Cosworth) – 2003 (ChampCar)
Event Schedule: Free Practice Session 1 Fri 11:50-12:50
Free Practice Session 2 Sat 14:50-15:50
Free Practice Session 3 Sat 09:55-10:55
Qualifying Session Sat 13:55-15:15
Sunday Warm-Up Sun 08:35-09:05
Race 1 (100 laps, 180mi) Sun 12:30-15:00
Past Winners: Paul Tracy (Forsythe Racing Lola Ford Cosworth) 2003*
Dan Wheldon (Andretti Green Racing Dallara Honda) 2005
Hélio Castroneves (Team Penske Dallara Honda) 2006
Hélio Castroneves (Team Penske Dallara Honda) 2007
Graham Rahal (Newman/Haas Dallara Honda) 2008
Ryan Briscoe (Team Penske Dallara Honda) 2009
Will Power (Team Penske Dallara Honda) 2010
Dario Franchitti (Chip Ganassi Dallara Honda) 2011

* Denotes CART Championship event

St Petersburg is a challenging course, and the first corner last year can be held as testament to its unpredictability. A first corner accident, which many say was triggered by Helio Castroneves, caused multiple retirements and even saw Marco Andretti’s car on its roof at the end of the melee, although Andretti calmly slid out unharmed.

There are multiple overtaking opportunities available, incidentally the best one can be said is now at Turn 10 where Dan Wheldon Way now begins. It was the corner where Wheldon overtook Ryan Briscoe to win the inaugural IRL event at the track. Wheldon celebrated that win by jumping into the Tampa Bay.

The Players & Form Guide

2012 IndyCar Series Championship Entry List (Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg):

No. Sponsor Entrant Engine Driver
2. IZOD Team Penske Chevrolet Ryan Briscoe AUS
3. Shell V-Power Team Penske Chevrolet Hélio Castroneves BRA
4. US National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet JR Hildebrand USA
5. CITGO / PDVSA KV Racing Technology Chevrolet EJ Viso VEN
6. Truecar / Lotus Cars Lotus-Dragon Racing Lotus Katherine Legge (R) GBR
7. SEAT León 1.6T Lotus-Dragon Racing Lotus Sébastien Bourdais FRA
8. Brasil Máquinas KV Racing Technology Chevrolet Rubens Barrichello (R) BRA
9. Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda Scott Dixon NZL
10. Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda Dario Franchitti GBR
11. GEICO / Mouser / Petropolis KV Racing Technology Chevrolet Tony Kanaan BRA
12. Verizon Wireless Team Penske Chevrolet Will Power AUS
14. ABC Supply AJ Foyt Enterprises Honda Mike Conway GBR
15. Interush / Panasonic Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda Takuma Sato JPN
18. Sonny’s Bar-B-Q Dale Coyne Racing Honda Justin Wilson GBR
19. Boy Scouts of America Dale Coyne Racing Honda James Jakes GBR
20. Fuzzy’s Ultra Premium Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet Ed Carpenter USA
22. Lotus Cars Dreyer & Reinbold Lotus Oriol Servià ESP
26. Royal Crown Cola Andretti Autosport Chevrolet Marco Andretti USA
27. Andretti Autosport Chevrolet James Hinchcliffe CAN
28. DHL / Sun Drop Andretti Autosport Chevrolet Ryan Hunter-Reay USA
38. TBC Retail Group Chip Ganassi Racing Honda Graham Rahal USA
67. TBA Sarah Fisher Hartman Honda Josef Newgarden (R) USA
77. Hewlett Packard Schmidt Hamilton Honda Simon Pagenaud (R) FRA
78. Entergy / Lotus Cars Lotus-HVM Racing Lotus Simona de Silvestro SUI
83. Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Honda Charlie Kimball USA
98. Barracuda Networks Lotus-BHA Lotus Alex Tagliani CAN

 (R) Denotes ‘Rookie Class’ driver. Entry list is subject to final confirmation.

It is difficult to say whether Penske, Ganassi or another will have the upper hand here until we start to see some practice times come in. Everyone has a new car, many have new engines, and almost all have new drivers. It makes writing a preview rather difficult, but we all must wait and see what might happen.

Bring on the new season! Let’s go racing again!

Matthew Lennon
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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.