St. Petersburg GP: Saturday Press Conference
SIMONA de SILVESTRO
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with today's post qualifying press conference. We're pleased to be joined by some of our Firestone Fast Six qualifiers for tomorrow's Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The Firestone Fast Five has drivers representing five different teams and they are separated by .8 of a second in that final second there. We're joined by James Hinchcliffe of Andretti Autosport who qualified fourth. James' only previous start here was last year where he also started from the fourth position. Talk about qualifying today.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Yeah, I'm glad to get it out of the way, to be honest. It was sort of the big first challenge for the weekend for us was our first qualifying of the year. It's a big unknown, and obviously it was the Firestone Reds because we had no opportunity to test on them or practice with them. The first time you get to drive them is really when it counts in qualifying.
So to go out there and get a start for the GoDaddy car, we're pretty pleased. I would have liked to have seen a few more of my teammates in the Fast Six, but we'll get together tonight and put our heads together and try to make a good race car, because, obviously, we didn't quite have enough in qualifying. Will was outrageously quick to get on the pole and everybody. It's a good group up here for the Fast Six. So just happy to be in the first two rows of the first race.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Helio Castroneves of Team Penske who will start in the fifth position; he's the 2007 pole sitter here. Helio, you're a three time winner here, looking to make it a four. Talk about qualifying in a prime position starting for tomorrow's race?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yeah, certainly, the Hitachi car and Hitachi boys did a great job during the practice because we didn't have much of a comfortable set up, and we were having some issues, unfortunately. At the end of the day in qualifying we were able to get back in the groove and the Red tires were (Indiscernible) at that point.
It was good the times, so at least we don't need to wait for that long. I think the fans are able to see more action out there. For us it was a good effort. John Florveus, my engineer, John, Jonathan, actually, so it's a new engineer, and we're very happy that we were able to find the issues and good job for him and good job for the whole entire team.
Now qualifying was tough. We start in the same position as last year and it worked out, so hopefully we'll do that again.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Simona De Silvestro of KV Racing Technology who qualified third. This is a career best start or qualifying result for Simona. Her previous best start was seventh in Edmonton in 2010, and her previous best start here in St. Pete was 14th in 2010. Simona, talk about making your first appearance in the Firestone Fast Six today?
SIMONA de SILVESTRO: Yeah, it was pretty exciting to make the Fast Six. I've never been in this position, and I was pretty nervous before qualifying because I haven't done a qualifying run like this in a long time, so it was kind of a little bit nerve racking.
But each session went better. We made a few changes every team, and really happy with P3. It's kind of a huge relief to be in this position. I really have to thank everybody that's supported me through the difficult years we've had so far and to make it now into starting third for the first race of the season is pretty awesome.
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Takuma Sato of A.J. Foyt Racing who qualified second. Takuma's best start here in St. Pete is 11th, previous best start was 11th. Takuma, your first race with A.J. Foyt Racing, and you're already starting off to a strong beginning. Talk about today's qualifying?
TAKUMA SATO: It's great. First of all I'm really happy to make him a happy day, not only for the qualifying, but I gave him my (Indiscernible). He's a happy guy to working around, and it's really good. It's made the whole team really motivated.
The team obviously worked really hard over of the course of the winter test program. We came here for qualifying and we trained really well. The first segment and second segment and third segment, in the end to hold P2 was a really perfect result for the team, and I'm really pleased to get it done.
THE MODERATOR: Great, Will Power of Team Penske is the winner of the Verizon P1 Award. This is Will's fourth consecutive pole at St. Pete, and his 30th career IndyCar pole. Will, talk about qualifying and getting that first front row position for tomorrow's race?
WILL POWER: Yeah, that was interesting. I never knew you could make so many changes to a car through qualifying. In between each round it's kind of hard to find a balance all weekend, but it seemed very nice on used tires. Going into the final round was kind of straightforward; just go out there and give it everything I had.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: Straightforward.
WILL POWER: That's right, Hinchcliffe. That's right, pal. What else are you going to do? You've got to go out there and just do it, man.
THE MODERATOR: Great, thank you.
We'll jump ahead to Tristan Vautier of Schmidt Peterson MotorSports who is starting sixth in his debut IZOD IndyCar Series race. He's a St. Pete resident. He won in his debut race in Indy Lights as well as Pro Mazda. Now it looks like you've got momentum on your side in your first start. Talk about the first qualifying round here at the IZOD IndyCar Series?
TRISTAN VAUTIER: It was cool. I was a little nervous qualifying because the last practice was not quite good, and I didn't really know what to expect from the qualifying format and the Red tires. I really tried to take it one step at a time, first off, getting in the top 12. Then once I was there, okay, make it to the top six.
It was good. The Red tires were a little different, but not too much. I feel like there is a lot of fight this weekend to get a lot of time out of the car. Everybody has to work really hard, and I try not to do a mistake and get some laps in. It worked well. I think we have a very good car, and I feel good about the work with my engineer Allen McDonald and the whole team. So that's really cool.
I think we have to improve on all the tires. I have to get more consistent, and really got to focus tonight on how we're going to be able to save the tires tomorrow and be consistent on longer runs and improve my pit stops as well, make sure I avoid the mechanics and tires when I park and then we should be fine.
WILL POWER: It was, otherwise I'd be fired. So I made sure I got it.
SIMONA de SILVESTRO: Yeah, it's true. I think when we wear the helmet, we all look the same and just try to do the best job we can out there. You know, it's a difficult sport in IndyCar. But, for me, it's always been really important to get the results and being a female second. I always wanted to be a really good race car driver, and that's what I'm aiming for. I'm really lucky also to have people around me who saw this that way too. That I wanted to be really competitive and try to win races and be running up front.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: I don't think there's one reason in particular. Certainly just being the first one of the year and these Red tires are just such an unknown. I think a lot of people found it was sort of one lap was the magic lap. With the exception of Will, you didn't usually go quicker after that. If you made one little mistake or caught a guy in traffic or something like that, your next lap was significantly slower.
So I think what you see here is the people that did the best job of finding the gap and putting the sectors together. That's not to say there are not going to be quick cars a little further down the grid tomorrow, so could make for a really quick race.
WILL POWER: It's always like that in IndyCar. You can never predict what's going to happen. We don't know who is going to win, but that is the excitement of it. Never had so much depth in the field of drivers. Everyone, like, there are no bad drivers. You go to the field, and you have 20 guys there. All of these guys can win. Given the right equipment and day, they can win races.
I hope IndyCar gets that after how difficult this series is. I think they need to. I don't think enough people know about it, you know, how many good drivers there are in this series.
TAKUMA SATO: I don't think we have an issue. In general, I think there is good inspiration, but I think we work really hard in terms of the balance of the car. Like Will said, and today's condition or maybe perhaps this year's tire made the condition different in terms of balance. So we really need to work on the car, and, fortunately, I think we've got a good balance to the car and that's really helped. And Honda is trying as much as they could and trying in advance anything over the course of the weekend in qualifying.
I think I'm very satisfied with Honda's performance, and certainly compared to the last year, it's tons of better. So I think Honda worked really hard, and hopefully by tomorrow also with the race distance and length little bit farther so that everybody will do the three stops if it stays green. But we will not be at a disadvantage, and hopefully we'll have a good car to win the race or to challenge, at least.
I don't think there is any big difference between Chevy and Honda.
TRISTAN VAUTIER: Yeah, I'm pretty happy with what we have done. I think we've got some improvements especially from yesterday. And I think looking at everybody and the chassis like we all have so much balance. There is so much teamwork on this side, I don't really focus if my engine's the best or not. I'm happy with what I have, and we have a lot of work on the car, so we focus on that.
TRISTAN VAUTIER: Yeah, the last few. I've known, this one's a little tougher, I think as the times here show. But it happened in the last two championships, but this is very much tougher.
SIMONA de SILVESTRO: Yes, it's funny. Actually this winter I had a lot of balance to aim to be fast. After years ahead, you really didn't know where you were. And after a few tests it was kind of like, okay, it's kind of all right. But after you get to a race weekend and you feel the pressure a little bit from the outside and know where you are, I think it's really rewarding for me and also for my team to kind of show where we can be.
I think it's kind of a big relief to know that we can be up front and be running up front. I think it's just going to make it easier now going forward because I know I can be fast and I know I have the tools to be fast.
Yeah, definitely I was pretty nervous going into qualifying and things like that, but the weekend so far I've been kind of letting it come to me and working pretty well so far.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: I think there is no doubt, and it's not just us. Like Tristan, I ran pro Mazda and then Indy Lights, and if you look back from 2008, '09, '10, 11' and now '12, at least one lights driver has graduated from a full time IndyCar ride, and other guys have gotten part time deals. How the GP3 over in Europe for more money is full and Indy Lights has nine cars is unbelievable.
It's shocking how narrow minded some of these young drivers are that they can't see such an incredible opportunity over here in the lights series. It trains drivers well. Tristan has proven that.
Like I said, five years in a row, somebody's graduated to a full time IndyCar. There is no other series that can boast something like that. It's nuts. I just don't get it.
TRISTAN VAUTIER: Yeah, there are seven or eight really quick drivers, so it doesn't make the level of the series large, so I think that's important to underline. And, I think, yes, you can see drivers graduating and the chances of the drivers coming from the American riders. So I don't know why people don't want to come drive it. Maybe because it's no paddle shifter or the car doesn't look the same as GP3.
But I think more drivers should definitely try it because, especially for drivers who have less financial support, the scholarships can really make it happen. I would not be here today without that system. So I think it works and more people should try it.
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Oh, yeah, it's too long an off season for everyone, especially for the driver. The driver is trying to find things to do and they start to get in trouble sometimes.
But I wish we would have started much earlier in the season. We probably are one of the last top series that start that late and beginning of a championship. So probably the earliest one to finish as well.
So it's one of those scenarios I already said my opinion regarding how they do. Obviously, you need to look for dates, you need to look for opportunities, you need to find some places, which I guarantee you, obviously, TV as well, timeframe or areas that they can show.
But, at the end of the day, it is what it is. We've just got to keep going, keep working, keep trying like the IndyCar Series is doing, and hopefully we'll be better in the future.
Q. (No Microphone).
HELIO CASTRONEVES: I do get jitters, yes. Butterflies in my stomach, especially when they play the National Anthem, but the butterflies the fly in formation. Right now I'm under control.
Q. Your thoughts on the extra ten laps being added for the race tomorrow?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Yes, certainly it will create an interesting aspect. I don't think it's going to be a save fuel mode run in the beginning of the race. I believe it's the three stops, so people are going to push or create an opportunity for a lot of racing in the beginning, so it's going to be interesting.
Like I did last year in two stops, it's going to be very, very difficult to do which takes a little bit away from the strategy from other teams. At the same time, it adds a little bit more challenge in the beginning of the race. Instead of follow the leader, I do feel it's going to be quite a more challenge.
But it's still going to be competitive. Firestone Tires did a great job off season improving the grip, and right now, tomorrow, we're going to find out how they're going to hold up during that scenario. Adding ten more laps is another thing to start thinking about.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations and best of luck tomorrow.
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