How Many Cautions Will We See at St. Petersburg?

Photo: Chris Jones

St. Petersburg has had on average about four cautions per race since 2005, making it very likely we’ll see multiple caution flags waved on Sunday. Frequent cautions are a product of street courses, and St. Petersburg has some especially tight sections that make it prone to contact with the wall and other cars.

With St. Pete also the first race of the year after a long offseason, drivers are itching to get going and start off the season well when they are here (meaning they’re more likely to make dumb mistakes or be extra aggressive).

Every teams’ strategy will be in some way centered around when they expect caution flags to wave and how many they expect to come out. Here is the expected distribution of cautions for this year’s season opener:

Cautions can be modeled using a Poisson distribution.

Four cautions is the most likely outcome for Sunday with a 19.2% chance. Three (17.6%) and five (16.7%) are the next two most probable number of caution flags to be waved. This means that with a 110 lap race teams could very well get away with not making green flag pit stops if the cautions come at the right time.

The first corner of the first lap is going to be especially important as cars are always cutting through the dirt and grass on that one which could lead to a quick caution to start the race. If the field makes it through there without incident, look for the technical part of the track in turns six through nine to be the sources of incidents throughout the race.

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