Kicking off the 2014 season, Simon Pagenaud has had things go right for him as he finished in the top-five in both races to start the season as he currently sits third in points.
“So far so good. It’s where we finished last season,” Pagenaud commented. “It’s interesting to see how the season started, who is strong. Actually everybody is strong. It’s good to score some good points at the beginning of the season. Hopefully, keep doing that in our quest for the championship.”
Pagenaud’s last race at Long Beach didn’t go without incident as there was some serious contact between him and Power partway through the race. Post-race, Pagenaud approached Power and displayed his anger about the situation. In the week and a half since the race, the pair have yet to talk and Pagenaud says he still feels the same about the incident.
“I’m still disappointed in his action, although I understand racing can be tough sometimes,” he commented. “I may make the same mistake someday, may not be proud of myself. But it’s a shame. It really ruined my race. It’s unfortunate. I guess he set the tone for the rest of the season. We’re going to be racing hard against each other. I’m pleased actually that we’re that high up in the championship to be chasing him. That’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to try to be racing hard. I’ll try to be as clean as I can be.”
Pagenaud added that INDYCAR officials also need to help in drawing the line what is right and what is not right based on the penalties that have been given the first two races.
Looking to keep his momentum going, Pagenaud heads to Barber Motorsports Park, which has treated him well in the past as in three starts, he’s failed to finish outside of the top eight.
“Well, I really like that track. It’s fast. It’s very difficult,” he commented. “You have to be very, very precise with your driving, with your race car. There’s no margin for error. It’s a track also where IndyCar teams test a lot, therefore pretty much everybody is on their game. It makes it very difficult in qualifying to make a difference. It’s pretty easy to lose six spots in 1/10th of a second on the grid. It’s a track I enjoy racing at. It’s very physical. You really have to be focused for the whole race. That’s the characteristic that I like.”
While the race tests machine and the strength of Pagenaud’s Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports team, it also tests the driver’s physical shape. Pagenaud notes that due to trying to get into the corner as hard as you can and brake as late as you can, it doesn’t make it easy to steer and feels similar to trying to turn the wheel in your passenger car without the ignition on as the race goes on.
“On a road course you have curves to use to try to shortcut the track as much as you can. It gets pretty bumpy,” he added. “The G forces are really high. In braking zones, we get about 3.5 Gs. You have to multiply your body weight by 3.5, basically, that gives you an idea how heavy gets your head, how strong your neck has to be, your back. Your whole body just has to be really strong.
“That requires a lot of training in the gym every day and running for cardio because obviously you have to hold your breath in the high-speed corners because you’re being thrown into the car and you don’t have the opportunity to breathe much. Pretty intense to drive an IndyCar around a road course, for sure.”
This weekend also marks an opportunity for Pagenaud to continue to get a better relationship going with his rookie teammate Mikhail Aleshin.
“We’re becoming friends outside the racetrack. It helps,” Pagenaud commented. “As a team it’s important to work together well in order to be fighting for wins. We’ll be happy when we fight for wins together. So far it’s going really well. Good friendship has started. He’s very fast, very focused, and I think it’s going to work really well for us.”
Beyond Barber, the series kicks off the biggest month of the schedule – May – and heads to Indianapolis for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, followed by the Indianapolis 500. Pagenaud tried out the road course portion of IMS in a road car this past week and says he was impressed with the track.
“It’s a very, very nice racetrack. It’s right in the middle of the Speedway,” he commented. “We’re going to spend the whole month of May at IMS. I think it’s fantastic for the fans. It’s IndyCar, it’s in Indianapolis, so it makes a lot of sense. I’m very excited to have a chance to show the fans the car in road course trim on a beautiful road course and then on the oval for the Indianapolis 500. It’s going to be an exciting month, certainly a difficult one because there are a lot of points available. But that is what it’s all about.”
While everybody knows the Indianapolis 500 will be exciting, this is the first time that they’ve done the road course portion. Pagenaud predicts a great race as he saw three very good passing zones while trying it out.
“The way they did the racetrack, we can basically be side-by-side for almost the entire lap on starts and restarts, which I think is going to be a great show,” he commented. “I would consider going to the race if I was a race fan. Also what I really like about the road course is that you can roam around, you can walk on the golf course, see every corner of the track. It’s quite a walk, but I think it’s a great atmosphere. You can go to different places, different corners, keep on walking. I think that’s pretty cool. I would definitely suggest that.”
Pagenaud added that it should be an interesting race, too, as a result of the standing start on the front stretch and the fact that they’re going backwards compared to the oval.