Robert Wickens will make his Verizon IndyCar Series debut from pole position after topping qualifying for the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Saturday afternoon, taking advantage of damp conditions to edge out Will Power.

Wickens sealed a deal to return to single-seaters in IndyCar with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for 2018 after spending six seasons with Mercedes in DTM, with St. Petersburg marking his debut in the championship.

Wickens was able to make it through the first stage of qualifying by finishing third in his group before topping the Fast 12 as light rain began to fall over the circuit, making it difficult for drivers to improve their laps.

In the final six-driver shootout for pole, Wickens opted to fit the harder black Firestone tyre unlike his red-shod rivals, with a different line at Turn 1 allowing him to find chunks of time to pip Power to pole with the final lap of the session.

The result marked just the third time in the history of the series that a driver will start from pole on debut. Wickens follows in the footsteps of Nigel Mansell, who took pole on debut at Surfers Paradise in 1993, and Sebastien Bourdais, who topped qualifying in St. Petersburg in 2003.

Wickens' fastest lap of 1:01.6643 saw him finish just 0.07 seconds clear of Power, with fellow rookies Matheus Leist and Jordan King also starring to lock out the second row of the grid in third and fourth place respectively.

Takuma Sato and Ryan Hunter-Reay both benefitted from penalties for other drivers to reach the final stage of qualifying, finishing fifth and sixth respectively ahead of James Hinchcliffe and Gabby Chaves.

Four-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon struggled to P9 in the slippery conditions ahead of Tony Kanaan, with Simon Pagenaud and Alexander Rossi propping up the Fast 12, the latter after receiving a penalty.

Defending champion Josef Newgarden will start his title defence for Penske from P13 on the grid, while British drivers Jack Harvey and Max Chilton will line up 19th and 20th for the start on Sunday at St. Petersburg.



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