6TH PLACE TO KICK OFF 2012 INDY CAMPAIGN!
Last weekend’s race through the streets of Saint Petersburg was a landmark moment in the career of Simon Pagenaud since it marked the start of his first full programme in the IZOD IndyCar Series, the USA’s premier single- seater championship. In 2011, the young Frenchman had given occasional glimpses of his talent when he stepped in three times as replacement driver. Those performances caught the eye of several team bosses, including Sam Schmidt. Last Saturday, Simon lived up to expectations by making it into the so-called ‘Fast 6’ with the sixth-fastest lap in qualifying. Unfortunately, an overnight engine swap cost him 10 places on the grid, forcing him to start the race from 16th position. Shrugging off the setback, however, he produced a sure-footed run and went on to overtake a number of more battle-hardened rivals, including the reigning three-time champ Dario Franchitti. Simon was further helped by the Sam Schmidt Hamilton Motorsports crew’s perfect pit work as he powered his way to a resounding and thoroughly deserved sixth place. He also ended up as the fastest rookie. It was a successful start to the Frenchman’s IZOD IndyCar Series campaign and there is a good chance that his maiden Grand Prix would have been crowned by a podium finish had he not been compelled to start from the back-end of the grid.
SIMON SAYS... "I am so happy! It’s always great when you kick off a new season with a finish in the points. My car was absolutely perfect, although I damaged my front win at the start and that forced me to push particularly hard. At the same time, the team did a fantastic job, and that enabled me to work my up to the front of the field. I take this opportunity to thank everyone at Sam Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports. It’s thanks to the speed of their pit stop routine that I managed to gain a lot of places during the race. That, plus the team’s faultless strategy and the fact that I didn’t make any mistakes, meant that I was able to collect sixth place at the flag. I don’t think I could have wished for a better start to the season and I believe we have a solid base for the next race. I can hardly wait for the second round to come around!”