Simon Pagenaud: “We must be able to win a race this year” in Indycar

Simon Pagenaud: “We must be able to win a race this year” in Indycar

“How are you approaching this year 2023, which begins this weekend in St Petersburg, after a disappointing 2022 season, which ended in 15th place in the championship?
I feel ready. There is no more ! I’m not going to betray all my secrets (laughs) but physically and mentally, I pushed the envelope a little further than usual. I work with the same preparer but there are more people now. I made a lot of changes on nutrition, hydration. Everything is more evolved, a bit like for a cyclist and I feel the benefits. The sport evolves, becomes more and more physical. And I pushed to the maximum of what I can do while keeping time to live a more or less normal life.

At the end of January, you won the Daytona 24 Hours for the second year in a row, in IMSA (North American endurance) again with Meyer Shank Racing. Does this change anything?
It boosts the whole team! We show that she has a strong backbone from all points of view and that brings a lot of very positive things. It tends to transpire on the Indycar in an entity like ours (where the two garages are united in the same workshop). Personally, it allowed me to see that I had worked well, that I was ready. I was comfortable and the lap times were there.

Your team’s main problem was tire wear. Was there anything you could do about it over the winter?
We did a lot of research to try to understand. We haven’t reversed the situation, but we’ve put in place a number of little things that should help. We will see that in the race because before the season, we only had two days of testing in cold conditions where it was not easy to be able to analyze whether we had as much deterioration as before or not.

“I’m very comfortable on city circuits and there are a few…”

Your team has a technical alliance with Andretti which disappointed last year. If this stable rebounds, will it be beneficial for you too?
Yes, because we are dependent on their performance. When they are not well, neither are we. And vice versa because we have similar settings, we have access to their information, their settings and they to ours. So technically, if there is progress at Andretti, it will show with us.

Knowing all this, have you set a numerical goal with Mike Shank, the owner of your team?
No (smile) because that’s often how you get into complicated situations. Compared to our potential, we should be able to win a race this year! I’m very comfortable with the package for city tours and there are a few on the schedule (5 in all). We failed not far last year (2nd in Indianapolis in May in the rain) so why not. Personally, I hope to be in the top 7 in the championship. I would be really happy to bring the team to this level because everyone has worked a lot. There was a big questioning, which I found admirable. We have a young, open-minded team. We even hired a “pit coach” who trains the mechanics every day for pit stops. The two cars (with that of Helio Castroneves his teammate) should progress at this level.

Championship points are no longer doubled in the Indianapolis 500. Will it change anything for you?
So that’s all the same to me! The points there… (laughs) The positive aspect is that before, when you had a problem in Indianapolis, like me with the engine in 2017, it killed your championship a bit. But it remains a separate race where 2nd place has no meaning. You go there to win, that’s the number 1 objective of a season. We worked hard to find speed at Indianapolis in order to qualify as well as possible to start in front and after having a car that is racing well like last year. »

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