IndyCar: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg

The beginning of July marked Formula 1's return to Canada, and this weekend the IndyCar Series gets its chance along the streets of downtown Toronto. COVID-19 wiped out the 2020 and 2021 events, so it has been three years since Canadian fans have had a chance to catch IndyCar in their country, and the series is expecting a rousing welcome back.

First run in 1986 as part of the CART series, the event became part of the IndyCar calendar in 2009, and is known as a physically and mentally taxing event. Weather in Toronto for the weekend is forecast with a high of 78-Fahrenheit and clear skies until Sunday, when there is a 50-percent chance of rain, which would only make the already tight, 11-turn 1.786-mile circuit even more treacherous.

How to watch the Honda Indy Toronto Grand Prix

  • Date: Sunday, July 17
  • Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada. 
  • Time: 3 p.m. ET
  • TV: Peacock

What to watch for

The Exhibition Place temporary street circuit is known for its tight confines, but it will even look more cramped than previous events as the series had to make the pit boxes shorter on pit lane to be able to fit all the cars. The 2019 race featured 22 cars and this event will have 25, so the pit boxes have been shortened to 35 feet, five fewer than usual. 

That will make for some interesting and possibly calamitous pitstops when the majority of the field rolls in for tires and fuel, making pitstop strategy all the more important.

Drivers will be negotiating the circuit through 11 turns for 85 laps with the best bet for action coming down the front straight to Prince's Gate at Turn 1, and the Lakeshore Boulevard straight that leads into the 90-degree, right-hand bender at Turn 3. As with St. Pete at the start of the season, and Long Beach, surviving Toronto may be a matter of tempering desire with patience and determination.

On the back foot

Arrow McLaren SP and Chip Ganassi Racing: We put these two teams here only for the odd soap opera emerging over defending series champion Alex Palou. The Spaniard currently drives for CGR. In the midst of trying to renegotiate his contract, CGR activated the option in said contract for 2023 on Tuesday. 

A few hours later, Palou's camp said that this was done without his consent and that he did not want to continue with CGR past the current season. Shortly after Palou's statement, McLaren released a statement of their own the stated Palou would join their team in 2023, which led to CGR releasing yet another statement stating that Palou was under contract with them through 2023. 

Hoo boy. If everybody thought the Andretti Autosport situation was a bit ugly, this one is even crazier and is sure to be the talk of the paddock through the weekend and beyond.

Andretti Autosport: To paraphrase Oliver Hazard Perry, this team has met the enemy, and "they are us". Which brings us to another old saying: "Don't wreck your teammate". 

At Mid-Ohio, Romain Grosjean, who has bounced off many a car this season with the flippant explanation that "this is how I race", got a taste of his own medicine from Alexander Rossi, who is leaving AA for McLaren at season's end. Grosjean then got into Colton Herta later in the race. And Rossi later took out the team's fourth car, driven by Devlin DeFrancesco (who has played at bumper cars numerous times this season himself). 

All of this left Michael Andretti furious. How all that plays out this weekend, at the tight confines of Toronto where respecting each other's space is paramount, will be interesting to see.

Running in place

Dale Coyne Racing: David Malukas put together a fine race at Mid-Ohio with a well-deserved ninth that was a long time coming. Malukas has raced well but has often found himself just being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but at Mid-Ohio everything finally came together and he was rewarded with his best finish of the season. Here's hoping he and the team can continue that trend at Toronto.

Best foot forward

Meyer Shank Racing: Simon Pagenaud was the pole-sitter and winner the last time the series visited Toronto, where he always seems to be able to keep out of trouble and negotiate the temporary circuit unscathed. He and teammate Helio Castroneves are also coming off a strong finish at Mid-Ohio, where both finished in the top 10 (Castroneves in eighth and Pagenaud 10th).

Team Penske: Except for that very odd Indianapolis 500, where they just never seemed to find any sustained pace, the Captain's chargers have been the gold standard, as usual, in the series. Scott McLaughlin won last time out at Mid-Ohio, Will Power was his typical consistent self with a third-place finish and Josef Newgarden ran to seventh place to ensure all three Team Penske cars finished in the top 10. Toronto should be more of the same.