Today Simon Pagenaud sat down with media to discuss his great start to the 2014 Verizon IndyCar season. The following is the full transcript from the Press Conference.
MODERATOR: Welcome, everyone, to today’s INDYCAR conference call. We’re pleased to be joined today by Verizon IndyCar Series driver Simon Pagenaud of Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports.
Simon is in his fourth season as an INDYCAR competitor in his third full season with Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports.
Simon, you’re off to a strong start in 2014 with two top-five finishes at St. Petersburg and Long Beach, currently third in the points. Are you where you want to be in the championship after two rounds?
SIMON PAGENAUD: So far so good. It’s where we finished last season. 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.
MODERATOR: This weekend the series heads to Barber Motorsports Park. You made your series debut there in 2011. You’ve never finished outside the top eight at Barber. What about the layout of that track suits you so well?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, I really like that track. It’s fast. It’s very difficult. 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.
MODERATOR: I know you don’t like to look ahead beyond the race on Sunday, but the Month of May sets up right after that. Before we get to the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, you will have a chance to test with everybody on the newly modified road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. You had a chance to drive a road car on the circuit this week. What do you expect when you get into an IndyCar on that road circuit?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I was actually very impressed when I got on the track. It’s a very, very nice racetrack. It’s right in the middle of the Speedway. 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.
I think the racing is going to be great on the road course. Like I said, I was very pleased with the layout. There are three very good passing zones in one lap, which I think is incredible. I think it’s going to be a great show. I’m very excited about testing at the end of April.
MODERATOR: We’ll open up for questions for Simon Pagenaud.
Q. You have a new teammate this season from Russia, Mikhail Aleshin. We saw you doing some little videos. How is it going between you two?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Very well. Mikhail is a super nice guy. We’re becoming friends outside the racetrack. It helps. 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.
Q. What do you look to at the history of what INDYCAR has been through in all your racing?
SIMON PAGENAUD: What do I look through all the years of racing, is that what you’re asking?
SIMON PAGENAUD: It’s an interesting question. I’ve never been asked that question. Thank you for that. The evolution of IndyCar has been fantastic. I’ve been watching IndyCar since I’m a kid. I guess I’m going to turn 30 during the month of May, so I’m still pretty young. To me, my greatest memories are seeing Castroneves battling with Tracy on the last lap. Gil de Ferran winning. The ’90s were good years with high-horsepower cars. These times with the cars screaming at 16,000 rpms, that’s what I remember the most. I think the evolution of the sport is incredible. I think the cars are now very fast with very efficient engines compared to the past. The aero, we’re constantly working on the aerodynamics of the car, trying to take away drag and gain downforce, which is a constant battle for the engineers. I love it. I think IndyCar is definitely a series where you have to work into details. It’s incredible to see how tight the field is and how good the teams are.
Q. With the addition of the road course at Indy, and Barber, some fans might not go to a road course, may not be familiar with it. Can you tell them what to expect and enjoy the most about a road course versus an oval.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, I think race day on Saturday for the Indy road course is going to be really good. I think it’s going to be good racing. We have a standing start on the front straight, but we’re going to go backward compared to the oval. I think it’s going to be very tight going into Turn 1. 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. 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.
Q. So fans can get some exercise and see a race at the same time?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Exactly, and enjoy the sunshine.
Q. You mentioned the physical part that you go through when you do a road course. Can you give fans an idea of what it’s like for you to go through all that? Mentally and physically it has to be very demanding.
SIMON PAGENAUD: It’s very demanding a road course, for sure. I compare it to an oval. On an oval the stress is mostly mental. Most of the time you just have to be so focused, so precise with your movements, but everything you do is very slow in the car. You’re traveling at such high speed, you can’t do any brutal movements. Whether your throttle traces are very smooth, you’re looking ahead, very far ahead, you’re planning in advance.
On the road course, you have to brake as late as you can, as hard as you can, utilize all the grip available from the wings, the downforce, and from the Firestone tires, which are really grippy. All that with no power steering. So, as you can imagine, the steering gets really, really heavy. It’s similar to a road car without the ignition on. It just gives you an idea. It gets heavier as you go faster. On a road course you have curves to use to try to shortcut the track as much as you can. It gets pretty bumpy. 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.
Q. It’s been 10 days since Long Beach. Where do you things stand with you and Will Power?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I think it’s the same. I’m still disappointed in his action, although I understand racing can be tough sometimes. 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.
Q. He wasn’t penalized. Some people were penalized for things, others weren’t. You mentioned that the tone was set. Do you think you have a grasp on what the racing will be like going forward, what is and is not going to be tolerated? Do you expect any fallout or tempers to linger going into Barber?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, if it’s similar to Long Beach in terms of rules, it’s going to get pretty crazy pretty quick. We are racers. We all want to win. We all try to get into a gap that’s sometimes too small. There needs to be some regulation sometimes that tells us what we can or cannot do.
Right now, to be very honest with you, I don’t know what’s allowed or what is not allowed. It’s still a very gray area. I’m hopeful that it will be fixed for Barber where we have a much better understanding.
Like you said, there were penalties, and sometimes there were no penalties for other drivers. I think that needs to be understood so we all know what to do next time, we all know how to behave on the racetrack together.
Q. You salvaged a fifth, but did you think you were going to have a shot to win that race?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I think if we didn’t get punted, yes. I think we had a really fast car. We were in a good spot at that time. I mean, we were third when we got punted, third or fourth. Everything was running well, according to plan. I was just struggling on the restart on the black Firestone tires. When I got punted and restarted in front of Hunter-Reay, we pulled away from him. The car was fast. Engine was super good, too. Everything was going really well. I think we definitely had a shot.
Q. In the offseason a year ago you told me how much work and effort you put in to prepare for last year, and your goal was to win the championship. You fell short of that. I know you were disappointed. Did you have to change anything or up your routine to prepare for this year to take the next step and achieve your goal of winning the championship?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I think every year you try to do that. I think you try to up your game every year. I think that’s why it can be hard for some drivers to stop and go in a different series and come back. I think it just shows the competition is really, really high right now. You have to be able to extract 100 percent of yourself in the car.
We worked really hard with the team during the winter to get the car exactly like I wanted, make the car basically more similar on different racetracks, so it was easy for me to extract more out of it. So far that’s what we’ve been doing. I’ve been able to work more on my driving, more on details to actually improve at every racetrack, extract more lap time.
Mentally I’m in a very good state. Physically I’m very, very ready. Now it’s going to be about being strong on the ovals also. I’m very, very excited about the ovals coming up.
Q. Will mentioned earlier this week he’s not focusing on points right now. With you and him really leading the pack in terms of championship contention, what is your focus as you’re going into this race weekend at Barber?
SIMON PAGENAUD: Well, my goal is to try to qualify as high as we can and then try to win the race. I think it’s the case at every racetrack. We know that we can do it. We know we have the car. We know we have the engine to do it.
Now you have to adapt to the situation, whatever it is. That’s what wins you championships. You may have a really fast car, but you may have a difficult race like we had in Long Beach, then you need to adapt. I never thought I would have to fight back through the pack in Long Beach, but we did.
I’m just going to adapt as much as I can to the situation, whatever it is. If I’m on pole position, I’m going to try to pull away from the pack. If I start 12 or 15, I think I’m going to try to go forward.
At this point in the season, yes, you want to finish races for points, but it’s important to win races also. So I’m going to do everything I can to qualify myself at the front and then extract the best out of my car during the race.
Q. Do you have any particular songs or bands that you listen to before a race to calm you down or pump you up or do you prefer quiet time before you get in the car?
SIMON PAGENAUD: It’s an interesting question. I actually like to concentrate on my inner self. I just listen to my body.
MODERATOR: Simon, I have to ask you a question about the project you have going on that you’re going to see at the beginning of the month, the ’68 Fastback. That is a dream car of yours. Talk about restoring that car.
SIMON PAGENAUD: Yeah, it’s been a dream of mine since I’m a kid. My grandfather had a ’68, a Bullitt Fastback. He imported it from the U.S. to France back in the day. That was quite incredible to see a Mustang there in France. I always heard about that Mustang. Unfortunately I never saw it, but I heard stories. I always wanted a Mustang. I’ve always been intrigued by it.
I’ve been looking for one since I moved to the U.S. in 2006. I finally found one actually in San Diego last year when I was on a trip with my girlfriend. Just before I left for Fontana, the last race of the season, I basically bought this car that I found in a garage. We’ve been doing restoration with Damon Sturrock at SnakePit Custom, which is a brand-new shop here in Indianapolis. He’s done an incredible job. The car looks really, really good. I’m very excited to see it come May 3 for the grand opening of his shop.
(4/23/14) – Parker Hall
Transcript Courtesy of INDYCAR