GP of Indy Friday Press Conference
THE MODERATOR: We have a very interesting session. This is the best starting position for Jack. Congratulations to Jack. Scott, I'll let you kick it off and then we'll go right into questions. I asked you about the run. You said there were some places up there where there was quite a bit of accumulating water.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, it was an interesting few sessions there. I think the standing water was a bit of an issue through turns 1 through 11. That was through any type of wet session, especially Q3 for the start. Smart of them to wave that off for a bit.
Strategy-wise we went out on older wets because we didn't have enough new sets to run. I think Will was on the same strategy. Came in, took tires, there was a red. That definitely hurt us and caught us out.
Still in the Fast Six. I think we got a good opportunity. The car has been quick all week. Hopefully we can have a smooth race tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: Any comments from the two of you about the conditions of the run?
JACK HAWKSWORTH: To be honest, the last run, probably less standing water than the top 12, so pretty good.
THE MODERATOR: Will, I saw you in the grass a couple times early on. Was that a matter of trying to find the fast way around?
WILL POWER: Yeah, went through the grass there in practice just trying to see how deep I could go on braking.
In qualifying, we were good. We were on the same strategy as Scott: used old tires at first, then put on some new tires. It went red. We pretty much had what we got.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q. Jack, with a one-car team, do you think for the rest of the season it will be a disadvantage compared to the other teams that can share information?
JACK HAWKSWORTH: I think it has its pros and cons. In some ways it's good, get through the politics. To be honest, I'm working very well with the team. They're giving me what I want.
I think I'm able to kind of lead them in the right direction with the car, as well. I'm not too worried about not having a teammate. I kind of like it.
Really looking forward to the rest of the season with them. We started the season out quite strong. There's been glimmers of speed and potential. Not all quite there yet, but hopefully tomorrow is the day when we do to.
Q. Jack, being the only driver, your team owner was a driver, does that make up the difference?
JACK HAWKSWORTH: Bryan is awesome. He's experienced. He's got the T-shirt, been there, won races. Always good to bounce ideas off him. He's always there giving advice to myself on driving. Also he understands the feelings which perhaps sometimes I have with the car. He can relate to that.
Yeah, it's a good relationship. It really helps for sure.
Q. Ryan, talk about the last corner. Standing water, was that your biggest issue?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, every time through there I almost lost it. I had a few big moments there. In qualifying you got to go for it. Was told what P1 pace was at the time, so that lap we did it good enough to put us P1 at the time.
Yeah, it's unfortunate. In the wet you're always going for it. There's a very fine line between stepping over getting that good lap in the wet and throwing it off. Just part of it.
Unfortunately dinged up the right rear there. Hopefully we'll get that fixed up and be ready to go for tomorrow.
But definitely the standing water was a big issue in the corners.
Q. Who had Saavedra and Hawksworth 1-2?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Definitely great job by some of these guys. Jack has been quick all year. Saavedra has been really quick in the wet. Unfortunately we didn't get to see out the session. He did a great job nonetheless. He was very quick the whole time. Credit to him.
Q. Scott, which has more value, a pole on an oval race or a pole on a road course?
SCOTT DIXON: Any pole is good. The oval pays a lot more and you get bonus points this year, too.
Any pole is a big deal. Especially coming in for the inaugural Grand Prix, it's a nice one to get. Huge congrats obviously to Sebastian, that whole team there.
Anytime you get a pole - and that's what today is about - it can sometimes set your weekend, as well, so...
Q. Scott, you said earlier there was an issue with standing water. In case of rain tomorrow, do you think it can be a safety issue for the race?
SCOTT DIXON: It actually dispersed really quickly. It wasn't horrible. I think when we got that heavy rain, it was the same time we were going out for Q3. Once we went out, that sort of swept it a little bit or cleaned it up or the water just dissipated. It actually wasn't too bad.
There were a couple of troublesome areas. The last corner, turn 1, I think going onto the back straight. The back straight was pretty bad at some points there, too.
Q. Will, a long time ago you were young, going up against guys that had won races, a little intimidation factor. How much does the fact that four of you have won races, the two in front haven't, does that weigh on the young kids? Do you think you can intimidate them a little bit?
WILL POWER: I know how it feels when you get your first pole. It feels pretty cool. You feel a little bit of pressure going into the race.
Man, there's no bad drivers in this series. That's why you see such a mixed-up qualifying session week in, week out. They're all good. They're all good racers. They can all win races.
To me, yeah, I think they're going to do a good job and we'll see what happens. We'll know tomorrow.
Q. Ryan, is the car salvageable to run tomorrow?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, it's salvageable. It's the right rear. The most work is going to be done with putting the smaller details back together, some of the exhaust on the right rear and things like that.
Yeah, first glance it was mainly contained to the right rear. I haven't had a chance to look at it, but it was just one whack at the right rear.
Q. How was the whack with no SAFER barrier there?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I had some time to head backwards for a while. Almost had it going in a straight line backwards, then it kind of just dove in there.
It wasn't a hard hit or anything.
Q. What will it be like relative to the pressure of starting up front with all these lions behind you.
JACK HAWKSWORTH: It's another race. We have very good pace. I'm actually quite excited. I think the car is very good. We have a clear track ahead. If we can get Saavedra at the first corner, we'll try and pull away, see what we can do.
Q. Other than Ryan, were any of you on quick laps when the red flag came out at the end? If you're willing to admit it, how much quicker?
WILL POWER: I was two seconds up and it went red (laughter).
No, it was the strategy. We just went out on old tires at first to get a feel for the track. We put tires on it and were going to go for it at the end. Obviously, you can never predict what's going to happen. But, yeah, I was going to be on pole (laughter).
SIMON PAGENAUD: I was going to be on pole, too, actually (laughter).
JACK HAWKSWORTH: I think everybody had a lot more on the table. I think the fastest lap was going to be on the last lap. Everybody was pretty quick.
Q. Simon, you are carrying on this year where you left off last year. You're showing well. Do you have the same crew that you had for the third year?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, it's the exact same team on the 77 side. The advantage of three years in a row is that we worked on details years after years. The first year you kind of get a feel for it. Then myself as a driver, I wasn't fully up to speed yet. In the third year it's a lot easier to work on your driving, improve it here and there, get the car to your liking week in and week out.
That's what difficult about IndyCar, it's so tight, so competitive, that it's actually difficult to get to that level. That's why consistency with people is key. It has been for us, for sure.
Q. Ryan, have you received a text from Ralf Schumacher yet? He hit the wall in the same place.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: No, I haven't. Totally different circumstances. We're in the wet and the tire didn't explode. Maybe I will get one, not sure (smiling).
Q. Simon, you haven't talked about your run. You set the fastest time, the track record thus far. You must have thought you had a pretty good shot at the pole. All kidding aside, were you really in a position where you set up for a last bonsai run?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, could've, should've. But the car was really fast in dry condition. In wet condition, Scott, Will and I were on the same strategy with tires. We got caught up on that last red flag.
I was actually on the pole lap the last lap, the lap that caught the red in turn 7. I didn't do it, I didn't complete it. I believe the team and the car was strong enough to do it.
Q. Simon, did you have a chance to touch base on Mikhail? He got a penalty for interference.
SIMON PAGENAUD: No, I didn't. I know that him and Sebastien Bourdais are becoming best friends. That's all I know (laughter).
Q. The four of you who have driven here before in the 500, describe the different feeling of going up the straightaway north instead of south. Was there a little concern at first or anything?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: No, no concern. It's awkward on pit lane looking down to the left when you're sitting there looking at cars coming by. That's the weirdest part, is looking to the left at cars coming by when you're a spectator, I guess.
Nothing strange on track. It feels like a different track. You almost forget you're inside IMS when you're out there. You're kind of entrenched in the whole thing.
Q. Ryan, you've had experience with Sebastian Saavedra before as a teammate. How big of a secret talent is he? What is his best skill? What is it about his ability as a racecar driver?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Congrats to Sebastian. He definitely has a lot of raw talent there. There's no doubt about that.
He's still learning as he goes. He's been switching teams. That doesn't make anything easier. You just saw the raw talent up there, being up there pushing the big teams. Good job.
SCOTT DIXON: I think the biggest thing that Ryan touched on is that he's been switching a lot of teams. I think it's fantastic for him. It's going to help the team all over.
But, yeah, he's very competitive. To get to this point we all know he's very accomplished. It's great to see.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, guys.
A big moment for any driver to score a first pole position, this time an inaugural pole for the Indy Grand Prix. Sebastian, congratulations.
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: Thank you. Very proud of everybody. It's huge. A great way to start the month of May. I think we've been pushing ourselves, looking to get this opportunity.
When we saw that there was a great opportunity, we took it. So very proud.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions for Sebastian.
Q. How identical is your setup to Sebastien Bourdais' car?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: We definitely were slightly different when it was the wet conditions this morning, trying different combinations. At the end, we were pretty close.
I think we made different aero configurations just trying to see who was going to take the right one. I think that was the main difference.
Q. You and Gary have been together for quite a while. To get the pole here, is he getting oxygen right now or has he recovered all right?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: You need to hear him when he was at the radio when there was a yellow. There was a big scream.
But I think we've been working very hard for this to happen. I think everybody on the team has been non-stop. We've been taking a couple away from us. Something we are close to deserving more. This is a way to start that.
It's a good strike. Better here in Indianapolis. Hopefully keep it up. It's a long month ahead.
Q. The pole and tomorrow's race is a big deal. Starting Sunday, you're going to start the Indy 500 qualifications with the team that won it last year. How much confidence does that give you?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: It's huge. Everybody wants to keep it the same way this year, of course. With Sebastien Bourdais, we're trying to keep the same mentality, trying not to push ourselves too much. We need to try to keep doing the same work that T.K. and Simona did last year.
So far everything has been smooth, great merge with AFS Racing. Everything seems to be going in the right direction. Just need to keep it up.
Q. You're going to have a lot of guys behind you tomorrow with a lot more experience than you pushing you on the start. Do you have any thoughts in your head right now as to how you're going to handle that?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: To be honest, I feel old. I'm 23 years old, but I've been here already for three years. I feel we are already a big family.
They do have a lot more experience, but it's a matter of keep doing what you've been learning for the last 15 years of your racing career. Every day you're learning something different, every corner you're learning something different.
But at this time it's not the time to try different things. It's time to keep things the same way, focus on the start. It's going to be huge, whoever gets a good jump or not. It's a long straight. Whatever happens with the weather conditions and the wind direction, it's going to be huge as well.
Q. In your career how do you rank winning this pole?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: I think in my professional career, it's the top level, the top spot for sure. We've been getting closer to a couple things. We've been leading laps and stuff like that. Strategies or things like that haven't worked out.
But definitely this is a point that makes you get addicted to more. You just want more. I think this is a great start for that to happen.
I think we have something. We're building something from scratch. The long relationship that we're building, it's hopefully soon to be shown.
Q. How much more confidence do you have having run with the leaders, led your first laps in a couple events, mixing it up to where you were this time last year?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: This year has been so competitive. Even if you are running side-by-side by Will Power or side-by-side by somebody in 15th place, you're talking about a couple 10ths of a second. Everybody is so close to each other. The level of competition is almost the same that you no longer see drivers, you just see colors out there. You need to maintain it that way.
If you think you need to approach differently, everybody is just so close together.
Q. When you started Q1 today, what would have been your goal, your realistic goal?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: If it was going to be in the rain, I wanted a top five surely. When it was getting dry, I was just pushing to qualify to Q2. That's exactly what happened. It rained. It was very dry at the beginning. That last lap, that last corner, I was able to jump into P4. When it started to rain, there was a big smile below my helmet. I enjoy rain very much.
More than that, I think we have equilibrium in the car when it comes to dry or wet conditions. I feel very comfortable right now.
Q. How would you explain to people who Sebastian Saavedra is? They don't know you largely.
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: I think the best way to describe it is a guy who is pushing hard, pushing his limits. Not only putting into play everything he's been learning in the past years, but a driver that will bring a smile or two sometimes. Everybody will know me by my hair, which is completely destroyed by the hat, but I'm keeping the sponsors happy.
At the end, you'll always see a smile on my face, somebody to have a quick chat. At the end when I put my helmet on, here we are.
Q. The track changes a lot lap after lap when the sun is out or there are clouds. You ran some yesterday and some today. Does the road course change like the oval does?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: Huge. This is very sensitive to temperature, not even to the clouds. Yesterday we were talking about three degrees Fahrenheit difference and the track was completely other.
It's very crucial to pursue the track and almost predict what you're working on because it is very sensitive.
Q. Have you had a chance to practice standing starts here on the front straight? Given the way the surface is ground, any issue with traction with the way the surface is?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: If anything, I will say it will favor a good standing start. I think the main situation for everybody is trying to put a short enough first gear to make it work off the start, but long enough to make it work on the tight corners. That's a big debate because you got to run high first gears to make it through turn 1, turn 12, turn 13.
That's something I'll get back to the track and start working right away.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, Sebastian.
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: Thank you.
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