ST. PETERSBURG, Florida – Fingers crossed, Sebastien Bourdais says. If all goes well, he, his wife Claire and son Alex soon will be permanent residents of the United States.
And it all happened while preparing for a race in his adopted hometown.
The day before on-track activity began for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Bourdais and his wife and son met with a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services official about their applications for green cards. The meeting took place the morning after Bourdais’ annual charity karting event at the track.
“It was a 6 a.m. wake-up call to get to a 7:30 meeting Thursday in north Tampa,” Bourdais said with a smile Saturday. “That was exciting, but actually everything went really smooth. The whole immigration office was really cool. The inspector was really nice. It went well. She gave her approval, so now it’s in the system and being processed. We’re just keeping our fingers crossed.”
Bourdais, who was born in Le Mans, France, said he and Claire decided to apply for green cards because their family, including children Emma, 12, and Alex, 9, are comfortable living in St. Petersburg and wish to make it permanent.
“We didn’t do it earlier because we didn’t know how long we would stay or how long my contracts would be,” he said. “But now the kids have been here in school long enough that we don’t feel comfortable going back for their education in France. Plus, we really like it here.”
A green card grants its holder permanent residency, a step up from a work visa. Bourdais said he and his wife also applied for a green card for Alex, who was born in France, so eventually he can hold dual citizenship. Emma is a U.S. citizen by birth, Bourdais said.
“When we came back (to St. Petersburg) the first time, we thought we’d be here maybe three or four years and then go back to Le Mans,” Bourdais said. “Things just never seem to go to plan, but I wouldn’t change anything. I’m just happy to be here and happy to be driving an Indy car.”
Outside Turn 10 on Saturday morning, Bourdais and team co-owners Dale Coyne, Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan unveiled the plaque commemorating Bourdais’ victory at the St. Pete race last year (shown in the photo above). It was placed next to the plaque for his victory in 2017.
“Winning here the last two years has changed a lot of things with the community and the way I’m perceived and the way I can use my name to give back to the community,” he said. “It’s pretty cool to see that. It’s a feel-good moment to be able to give back in return.”
This weekend is always hectic for Bourdais. His annual charity event, Kart 4 Kids, consumes most of his time Tuesday and Wednesday. On Friday morning, he was on track practicing for Sunday’s race. On Saturday, he practiced more and qualified 19th.
This time, even with the added pressure of an important meeting, he didn’t feel rushed or rattled.
“Once the weekend starts, it’s easy,” Bourdais said. “It’s just all the lead-up that’s hectic. When the weekend starts, it calms down a lot. It’s back to business, back to usual.”