Aleshin, the 2010 Formula Renault 3.5 champion, was introduced Nov. 22 in Moscow as the second driver for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for the 2014 IndyCar Series season.
The biggest worry Mikhail Aleshin had about his initial IZOD IndyCar Series test with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports on Nov. 18 was getting there.
The Russian, who was in the United States for the first time, had trouble figuring out the boarding process for his Southwest Airlines flight from Indianapolis to Orlando. He didn't have as much trouble adapting to the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports car during his initial test around Sebring International Raceway's short course on Nov. 18.
Aleshin will be the first Russian-born driver to compete in the series and first to start an Indy car race since Vladimir de Rachewsky in 1926. The only other driver from a former Soviet Republic state to start an Indy car race was Tonis Kasemets of Estonia in 2006.
"I've been racing in Europe for a long time and have had success there and driving more or less everything I could. But I decided to change because I just wanted a new competition with new tracks and a new car," Aleshin said. "It was always interesting to me how things were going over here in INDYCAR. The last three years I was thinking about it a lot, and now I've committed to do this and would like to thank my partners at SMP Racing for making this happen.
"I knew the competition is quite strong and it would be hard for me, especially because I've never raced any American circuits. It's a big thing to do, but I think I'll be competitive. Ovals will be hard, but I'm here to learn and compete for good results."
SMP Bank, which has offered personal and corporate banking services in Russia since 2001, is the sponsor of SMP Racing, which fields cars in multiple categories.
Aleshin, who has competed in Formula Renault 3.5 from 2006-08 and 2010-13, has also raced in the GP2 Series, the GP2 Asia Series, the GP3 Series, German Formula Three and the FIA Formula Two Championship.
"Big thanks to the team because they understood the situation correctly about my experience," he said. "In the case of America, there is no experience. I had plenty of information before the test from the team so that helped me a lot to be in good shape from the start. The car is big and a lot of power, all the things that I'm used to."
His quick laps and technical feedback impressed team general manager Rob Edwards.
"Mikhail did an excellent job at the test learning both a new car and a new track," Edwards said. "He and Simon worked very well together and have very similar driving styles, which should benefit the team. Mikhail formed an instant bond with (engineer) Allen McDonald. It is always good to work with drivers who are focused on their work and who are quick in the car."