Q and A with Simon Pagenaud and Tristan Vautier
MODERATOR: We have Tristan Vautier, Simon Pagenaud. Thank you for coming in before a busy day's work. Two very interesting drivers here today. Tristan is in so many ways the embodiment what the ladder system is, which we've worked on a variety of ways, Star Mazda, the F2000 series. He's gone through Indy Lights. Now he's with us as a rookie.
The gentleman who was the IZOD Rookie of the Year last year, Simon Pagenaud. Simon, I was thinking as we came in today, fifth place in the final points. I suspect there's a lot of people that that does not cross their mind. They don't realize what a fine year you had. You're coming in with three straight top-10s.
SIMON PAGENAUD: It's been a pretty amazing season last year. Rookie of the Year is an honor. It's something you see there's only a few men that have been able to do it. I feel so blessed I'm a part of them. It's something quite special.
But then finishing fifth in the championship is great for the team, a one-car team against the big powerhouses like Penske, Ganassi and Andretti. We're taking great pride.
Wouldn't be possible without the crew and Honda. It's good to be able to put a great performance all together.
MODERATOR: Tristan, you've had success every step of the way. You had a successful day yesterday. What is it like for you?
TRISTAN VAUTIER: It's very cool. I arrived here in 2010 with the goal to climb up the ladder, and it worked. I have my chance in the IZOD IndyCar Series now. It's a great opportunity. Really have to thank Sam and Ric Peterson as well as the ladder system. Thank Simon Riggs for taking the gamble on me because not many teams there to take rookies. Simon did it.
It's thanks to them that I have my chance this year, hopefully the chance to make a name for myself and get a name for myself in IndyCar and accomplish what I want to accomplish.
It's been a great adventure since I came over for a test day in 2010. We accomplished a lot. But hopefully there's more to come.
MODERATOR: I don't think it's much of a gamble, having watched you.
Tell us about the dog.
PAGENAUD: For those who don't know, I'm involved with the Humane Society. The goal is to be able to raise money to raise the dogs and rescue the dogs who are having a tough life. The goal is to help them with anything I can do. Anything I can do, I'm happy to help.
I love dogs. But unfortunately with all the travel, I can't really own a dog. That wouldn't be very nice to the dog for his own life. So I foster dogs. The goal is to help get those dogs adopted. Hopefully I won't end up with too many dogs at the end of the year in my house. So we'll see.
MODERATOR: Questions from the group.
Q: Tristan, what did you learn from driving in the other race that carries over to an Indy car?
VAUTIER: Well, I think, first of all, the track, it's not an easy track. I think there are many tricks to find a fast line. Certainly Indy Lights was a good introduction. There are some similarities in the lines you have to use on the track. I guess I still have a lot to learn about it.
Yeah, I think mainly the line to run on the track. I think the racing is actually going to be pretty different. You cannot run side-by-side as much in an Indy car. You cannot run as close to other cars because the air turbulence are way bigger.
I think the whole traffic aspect of our racing I've not learned yet about Indy car. But mainly, yeah, the line around this place.
Q: Simon, you had a very solid "500" last year. You qualified well, raced well, finished in the mid-pack. I would suspect you have a lot to take from your first experience here.
PAGENAUD: Absolutely. I think it was honestly the most intimidating race I've ever been in. I mean, I've raced in Le Mans, I've raced in many races, many different series. So far, it's probably the toughest because, honestly, as a road race, you don't know what to expect on the first turn, you don't know what to expect off a full stint. You don't really know. The whole month, the whole two weeks last year I learnt, but you can never really get close as a 20-car pack.
The first stint was definitely a cold shower, then I realized I had to be a lot more aggressive.
The thing for me is, learning on the ovals was first to enjoy it, and I did, so that's a good thing crossed off the list. The second thing was to understand the level of aggression you can have with the other drivers. Initially maybe I was too respectful, which wasn't the right line. So it took me a little while to understand.
Once we got to Iowa, I understand how aggressive I could be while passing car and was able to make the pass, clear the pass. Honestly, I didn't have that awareness before.
Indy was a big learning curve and steep one. I'm not ready yet, but I don't think you can ever be ready for Indy.
Q: Talking about the aggressiveness, would either of you make the same move that Sato made last year?
PAGENAUD: Well, it's Indy 500. It's the race to win. Second is first loser, I think. I finished second in LeMans and nobody remembers.
I've been in that kind of situation. To be fair, I think if you had a shot, you better take it, otherwise you're going to bite your nails for like years and year and years. If you have this try, you think you tried, that's your job. If you don't try, you don't deserve it.
I think that's the situation.
VAUTIER: Yeah, 100 percent. But I think Takuma, to try it, I guess I would have do the same. If you don't go for the gap to try to win the Indy 500, you're not an Indy car driver anymore. You just got to go. You have an opportunity to win the biggest race in the world. I think if you stay behind and stay happy with second, it's not enough.
As Simon said, nobody remembers second place. Yeah, I would have 100 percent been with Takuma, yeah, to do it.
Q: What would you say to Tristan? You spent a few weeks at Indianapolis. You went through the qualifying. You go out Race Day and all of a sudden you look down that first turn and this place is full of people. I would expect it's a totally different environment that you haven't confronted before.
PAGENAUD: You know what's amazing, when you're doing the warm-up lap, you can hear the crowd. That's just incredible. You obviously have 600-something horsepower in your back and you can still hear the crowd. So it's quite a feeling for sure. The stands are full.
The biggest thing is that there's 33 cars. So it's such an impressive view. Obviously I was starting 16th. I was probably 33rd by the first corner. It was such an impressive view.
Just being part of it also is something incredible. As a driver, it's such an accomplishment. To be able to come back second year in a row with the same team, with continuity, it's great.
For Tristan, it's going to be a different story. Obviously he has the advantage that he has a team that knows a lot about the oval. His engineer is a very, very experienced engineer on ovals, so that's going to be a good benchmark for Tristan.
But Tristan is one of those guys that can get up to speed very quickly. I'm not too worried about it. As you can see yesterday, very comfortable. Going to be a great asset for the team.
Q: I don't know how much either one of you know about the history of this place. It was a hundred years ago this year that a Frenchman won here for the first time, Jules Goux. The next year was another Frenchman, René Thomas. How would it be for a Frenchman to come back 100 years later and win?
PAGENAUD: I think it would be huge, huge for the series, as well. The awareness in Europe would definitely grow. It would definitely help to be recognized as much as Formula One can be over there. I think for IndyCar, obviously we want to grow here in the U.S., but it's also important for us as foreign drivers be able to develop the series over there, as well.
We were actually in a museum two days ago. I have two pictures of the car, No. 16. I told Tristan, This is the car that won the Indy 500 with two Frenchmen. They shared the ride, Tristan told me. That's a pretty sweet thing. Yeah, 100 years ago.
VAUTIER: Yeah, that would be amazing, for sure. If we have to win it in two years, it would be 102, we'll take it.
PAGENAUD: We'll take it any year (smiling).
VAUTIER: For sure, that would be great. I think also, yes, it would be good for the whole IndyCar. It would bring media exposure in France, especially. I'd like the series to have more exposure in France, even though they cover it well. We'll try our best, for sure.
Q: Simon, the racing this year has been tremendous so far. How comfortable are you now with this DW12 chassis compared to the first four races of last year? How much more comfortable can you get as the season progresses on?
PAGENAUD: What you can attest is most teams have worked really hard over the winter. The cars are all behaving much closer to last year. So the competition is just tremendous. You can see Foyt wins, Andretti is winning. There's a lot of car that are capable of winning. A lot of drivers also.
That makes the racing absolutely incredible. I think it's the best racing all around in any racing sport at the moment.
I think what we're going to see this year at Indy is going to be very interesting also. Last year we just got the car. It was our first oval. The aero map on that car is completely different to the previous car. So it takes a while to understand all the details of it because when you're going at 230 miles an hour, aero is predominant. If you don't understand the map properly of the car, then the car is not going to behave really well.
I think you're going to see a lot of teams popping out. Some teams will be a lot stronger, but the main competition is going to be very tight. I think it is going to be quite interesting qualifying day.
Q: Tristan, as you move into this form of racing from Formula One, things were so competitive, sharing information, working within a team concept was very different for Rubens Barrichello when he came here. Was the adjustment different when you came here, that you share information, that you're working with the other driver who is also race day your rival?
VAUTIER: The more you step up, the more you see the difference in both spirits. I think like Star Mazda, even Indy Lights, I think a really young driver wants to make it, so much pressure to step up and beat everyone, including teammates, that it still makes the spirit of being more individual pop out more, even though it's not as pronounced in Europe because of the mentality of the teams.
But especially this year stepping up to IndyCar, we are here in the big league. Obviously we all want to be fast. We want to beat everybody. But there's way more sharing spirit in the teams and the atmosphere between drivers. Maybe it's because we get on well and it would have been the same all around. But the atmosphere between drivers is better.
The teams don't put as much pressure on you as well to be the No. 1 or No. 2. It's more like we work as a whole team and we try to make the whole package move forward. When it's race time, we'll see what happens.
But it's way different from F1, where you will have two new Red Bull drivers that the one who doesn't beat the other is going to be out at the end of the year. It's a different approach.
PAGENAUD: As you grow up as a racer, as a man or woman, you actually understand that you need to share information to belong in the sport.
Yeah, it's not just being you, you, you. It's about you working with your engineer, your whole crew. For that to work, you need to be able to be an open person, accept your teammates, work together. First and foremost for the team, they want the team to win, whichever driver it is.
For us, it's a little different, for sure. We both want to win. I'd be happy if Tristan win. I'm sure he be happy if I win. The thing we know for sure, you can see it with Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti, when you work well together, it really benefits yourself and the team.
That's where we need to be at. That's what we're trying to achieve. We're going to work hard together. We're obviously not going to open the door to the other one on the Race Day, but during practice we need to work better to have a better car.
MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you for coming in.