IndyCar – crowning of the 2023 season with our “Frenchmen”
Formula 1 will not be the only motorsport to regain its rights this Sunday: such is the case across the Atlantic with the St. Petersburg (Florida) Grand Prix which opens the 2023 IndyCar season. Among the drivers present are Simon Pagenaud (Meyer Shank Racing) and Romain Grosjean (Andretti).
After a six-month off-season, IndyCar resumes service on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida this Sunday. Considered the largest discipline of single-seater racing in the United States, it witnessed Will Power’s (Team Penske) second title last year, who took the opportunity to break the record for pole positions in its history (68) . Enough to give a tough time to the 26 other riders registered for this 2023 season, who meet from March 5th to September 10th to succeed the Australian who brings his title back into play.
17 races will be scheduled using an identical calendar as last season, with the exception of the Detroit Grand Prix which has a different layout. The famous Indianapolis 500-mile oval race will of course be part of the event on May 28th.
In the list of 27 riders registered all year round (a record since 2011), the competition finds its regular guests: veterans Scott Dixon (Chip Ganassi), Josef Newgarden (Penske) or Hélio Castroneves (MSR) will also be there be like the youngsters Colton Herta (Andretti), Pato O’Ward, (Mclaren) or Alex Palou (Chip Ganassi), who in their first experiences with the IndyCar chassis are no more difficult and complex to drive than a European single-seater. On the other side, four rookies will make their debuts: Benjamin Perdersen (AJ. Foyt), Marcus Armstrong (Chip Ganassi), Agustin Canapino (Juncos) and Sting Ray Robb (Rick Ware Racing).
But of course, for our greatest pleasure, we will find our two French pilots. Simon Pagenaud is about to play his twelfth season in IndyCar while Romain Grosjeana former F1 driver with Lotus and Haas, is entering his third year in the American category.
to take revenge !
A quick look in the rear-view mirror because you have to consider that their 2022 season wasn’t very satisfying: everyone joined a new team, forcing them to start over on new bases. From the third race Grosjean was on the podium with Andretti at Long Beach but he is 13th in the championship with just three top five finishes and an unfortunate crash at Nashville when he had the perfect car this weekend.
It was even more complicated for Simon Pagenaud and Meyer Shank Racing. His remarkable podium at the GMR Grand Prix last May was his only top five finish and he struggled with the car in the second half of the season, disappointing the 2016 champion.It’s almost 15ewhich is disappointing since we have a potential that should be 8ewe were halfway through the season, unfortunately at the end of the season we had a lot of mechanical issues that caused us to drop down in the overall standings and that doesn’t show our potential. he told us at the end of the year.
But as of today, the accounts are back to zero and there is a new season full of hope that the two men will start: The good news to start the year is that they were very satisfied with the work of their respective cars in the winter. What makes us want to see what’s to come!
Two questions for Romain Grosjean
During the IndyCar Content Days last February, we had a brief chat with driver Andretti. The opportunity to also talk about his return to Endurance, because he will be involved with Lamborghini in LMD from 2024H.
Hello Romain, congratulations on your 4th place finish in your category at the 24 Hours of Daytona! Can you tell us about your impressions of this great weekend and the Lamborghini?
A great impression and a very good atmosphere this weekend. I’m really excited to rediscover endurance and share the car with my teammates. I think it was the most attended edition of the 24 Hours of Daytona so it’s fantastic! We did a good job on the Lamborghini with a brand new car, even if the BoP (Balance of Performance) wasn’t in our favour. On the other hand, we lasted 24 hours without any reliability problems, so a good basis to work on the future.
This year is your third year with IndyCar and your second with Andretti Autosport. What are your goals and have you solved the problems you had with the car last year?
I think we worked well over the winter. We made good progress and focused on what we can do and how we can improve the team, drivers and strategies.
The goal for the season is to win races and be able to fight for the title at the end because we’ve said what we want to do with Andretti. To achieve that we need to have a good level of performance on all types of tracks.
Five questions for Simon Pagenaud
Shortly before the start of the season, Simon Pagenaud once again gave us the pleasure of answering our questions.
Hi Simon, what a pleasure to chat with you again! First of all, congratulations on your second consecutive victory at the Daytona 24 Hours. It’s enormous. Can you tell us in a few words how you felt about this crazy weekend, the remarkable dominance of the Acura crew and how the team stayed focused despite the big doubts about reliability?
In all honesty, I had a great time developing this program and this great Acura, certainly one of my favorite models from the brand. The car was born very well, of course we had to do a lot of testing and a lot of development on certain parts and especially in relation to electronic calibrations with the Acura engineers. A major development took place in January and the potential of the car was revealed.
It was a pleasure to drive behind the wheel, only pole position was a firm goal because we weren’t sure about the reliability over 24 hours. David Salters, President of HPD (Honda Motors), had asked us to demonstrate the car’s performance in qualifying, which the team did perfectly with that pre-race pole. Then the MSR team is impressive in this kind of races. I have to say, with all my endurance experience I’m very impressed with the way they cover the basics and make sure the car is reliable first, performs second and thinks of any mechanical scenarios you might need to overcome. Strategy is also a strength and of course the two wins in 2022 and 2023 prove that.
Coming back to IndyCar, how was the testing at the Thermal Club and what data were you able to gather with MSR this winter?
A lot of work went on behind the scenes. We reviewed the past season with the two cars, Hélio and myself. We had to put procedures in place to make progress and I would like to say that we have covered most of the priorities. It was about different areas such as pit stops, the technical performance of the cars depending on the circuit, the performance of the drivers and where we can improve, the strategies, the preparation for each race … We actually have no rest during the race In the off-season we work all the time and at Thermal it was good to be back on track, to see the development of the team and to validate the decisions made over the winter.
The car performed well at this track and in the weather conditions we had. With only two days of testing this winter, there are always questions and we have to trust the simulator and the simulation programs. To be honest, in winter I’d rather spend more time on the track than in the simulator, but that’s the rule.
We’ve learned that IndyCar’s Indianapolis 500 Miles double points rule has been scrapped, with only the top 12 qualifying points remaining in place. What do you think of this news, are you one of those pilots who are happy with the lifting of this rule? Can this decision make the championship even closer?
It’s all the same to me. Indianapolis is a separate race that is disqualified from the championship for me. It’s the race of the year with only one winner and 32 losers. In a championship, a 5th place can sometimes mean a win. Nobody remembers me finishing third in 2021 or leading most of the race in 2015. Single point or double points, in Indy only victory counts.
At the time I am sending you these questions, the season starts exactly one month to the day (questions to Simon on February 5, editor’s note). What does an IndyCar driver usually do all that time after testing when F1 drivers only have a week and a half between private testing and the championship opener?
I finish a week of physical training twice a day with my French trainer, do the final logistical aspects for the start of the season, travel, camper, schedule, daily training on my simulator. And then I focus on my hydration, diet and sleep to be at my peak physical performance on March 5th. All this parallel to my private life.
The last question is quite simple: why did you choose the number 60 on the car? Is it a specific choice?
At IndyCar, teams have their own number, and each driver in the series wears the number they chose when registering for the championship.
Simon Pagenaud and Romain Grosjean give you an appointment this weekend to watch the St. Petersburg Grand Prix, the opening round of the 2023 IndyCar season, which will be broadcast on Canal+ Sport on Sunday from 18:15.