De Ferran drops in to watch Marco

Gil de Ferran, the 2003 Indianapolis 500 winner and the current sporting director for Honda's Formula One team, made a surprise visit to the IndyCar Series opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

"It was a last-minute decision to come here," de Ferran said. "I was at the office in England on Friday and we flew over here with my family for a little vacation and we decided to come over to the race and see these guys."

The de Ferrans are spending a spring break with Greg Penske in the South Florida area.

"I came here as a last-minute decision and the first thing I did was to come here and see my guys," de Ferran said. "I really have a soft spot for the team. A lot of the guys are still the same like Clive Howell and Tom German. The time I drove over here were probably the best times of my life."

De Ferran, who drove the No. 6 Team Penske entry in the IndyCar Series, watched last year's thrilling finish to the 90th Indianapolis 500 on a television in Monte Carlo after the Grand Prix of Monaco. Sam Hornish Jr. won his first 500-Mile Race in the Team Penske No. 6, edging Marco Andretti at the checkered flag.

"Sam had a good car and he's a great driver, no question about it," de Ferran said. "If anybody could do what he did, Sam is definitely that guy."

Andretti's performance last season, in which he became the youngest winner of a major open-wheel race, earned him two tests for the Honda F1 team during the off-season.

"I think Marco is one of the bright young stars," de Ferran said. "He has shown tremendous potential at an early age. The people he's racing against are very good. We would be remiss if we weren't looking at promising talent from around the world.

"Marco is very mature and a very intelligent guy. He's very much in control of his world and his situation and that impressed me a lot. He's a tremendous talent in the car but his attitude and his head impressed me the most."

De Ferran said Andretti was "not afraid" of the car and laid down some fast speeds. That is why de Ferran is paying close attention to young Andretti's career.

"Marco is with a great team here in IndyCar and is focused on winning over here, that's the target right now," de Ferran said. "He's one of the bright young talents and we would not be doing our job if we weren't paying attention to who is coming up."

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