Earlier today, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports announced it has signed 2012 Firestone Indy Lights champion Tristan Vautier to drive a second full-time IZOD IndyCar Series entry in 2013.
Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson, the co-owners of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, drivers Simon Pagenaud and Tristan Vautier and team manager Rob Edwards participated in a conference call to discuss the announcement.
SAM SCHMIDT: The announcement just went out, something we've been working towards obviously going back as far as Indy Lights and the multiple seasons we ran there building the team, building the team members, the Indy 500 pole, fabulous year last year with Simon Pagenaud winning rookie of the year, successful on-track experience.
ite frankly, there were a lot of reasons to continue to bolster that one-car program, to do a good job there, after delivering ite a bit with Rob Edwards, staff, Simon, just trying to get the most out of it.
We kind of made a decision three or four months ago to really push hard and try to get to a two-car team, whether it be for data collection or chemistry or growing the organization, any number of reasons.
It's becoming apparent if you're really going to compete week in and week out with what is the foundation of the (IZOD) IndyCar Series, whether it be Andretti, Ganassi, you pretty much have to be a two-car team.
I certainly wouldn't be here today without Ric Peterson. I spent a lot of time with him the last half of the season. He's a fantastic individual, Canadian businessman, brings a lot to the table and the team. We certainly wouldn't be a two-car effort without his input.
Anyway, today we're announcing we're expanding to a full-time two-car (IZOD) IndyCar (Series) team with Tristan Vautier, who did an incredible job in (Firestone) Indy Lights this year. The talent has always been there, but we know it takes more than that to be successful in the (IZOD) IndyCar Series. We firmly believe he has the talent and the maturity and the experience to be successful there.
Sam, is Davey Hamilton still involved with the team and what role will he play? Absolutely. Davey and I have known each other for 20 years, raced against each other, participated together in a lot of things over the last 20 years.
We absolutely, positively wouldn't be where we are today without Davey's involvement and HP's involvement. As far as I'm concerned, we have an agreement, we're headed forward. I think that association this year with the launch of the "Turbo" movie everything else that's going on, is an extreme opportunity for Simon and the sad. We're very much looking forward to raising the bar even to another notch in that program.
There's so many people that have come into this. I mentioned Ric's involvement.But Honda, HP, Firestone, Mazda. Everybody has worked together to get to this point, a really incredible group at our shop back in Indy. I want to thank everybody for our opportunity.
I've said it here, I'll say it again: I don't turn any wrenches on this deal; we wouldn't be where we are today without just a fantastic group of individuals on this team.
Sam, in speaking with Simon over the weekend at 24 Hours, he indicated that he's ready to race for the championship, that the team is ready to race for the championship. From Sam, what can Tristan do to reach the larger goal of being a championship team? If there's one thing I learned, I keep putting in the back of my brain from the many years of Indy Lights competition, is chemistry. Even though we have a new chassis package, it's still a relatively spec format in that same tires, same chassis, similar neck-and-neck power situation. When you have that format, it all comes down to the driver and the chemistry with the people who are on the team.
I think we definitely had a lot of that really good momentum and mojo last year with Simon, the group of guys that he has. The strategy and the situation is not to mix that up, not to take a step back with that, but really to fill in some gaps.
I'm the type of person that never likes to look back, always likes to look forward. But it was beneficial to look back and reflect, even though we finished fifth, which is great, what's the difference between finishing fifth and winning the championship. We took a really deep look at that. We made little mistakes here and there.
One of the things, a couple races, we went there, unloaded, were completely out to lunch. We spent all of practice and alifying trying to get back to a point where we could be competitive. Ironically, Long Beach was one of those places where we were horrible when we unloaded, through practice, didn't get it done in alifying, then hit on something race morning and wound up finishing second.
It was a horrible weekend from a process standpoint. If we would have had a second car there to retrieve data from, I think we could have got to the place we needed to be a lot icker. We were struggling all weekend thinking it was setup and speed, when in fact we had an electronic malfunction. If we had another set of eyes, another car, it would have been pretty apparent.
I think last year a second car would have helped us a lot icker. The series is just so competitive, you have to roll off and be fine-tuned. You can't be testing. I think the second car really allowed us to do that.
Tristan, what do you envision your role being with the team? I think arriving to Schmidt Peterson and having two cars in this team, the team has proved last year they were already great. I think it's going to add a lot of value to the team to get more information, as Simon and Sam said. I think Rob is an amazing team manager and he selected the right people to make this team a title-contender team.
On my side of things, I don't want to arrive and call myself a title contender or anything like that. I don't want to arrive and set myself any precise goals. I think I have a lot to learn. I have an amazing teammate in Simon. I hope I can learn as much as I can from him and then get up to speed and hopefully both of us can work together and bring the team higher.
On my side of things, it's all about learning and trying to get up to speed as ickly as I can. I will really focus more on what I have to do to learn and go faster.
You said you don't want to set any goals. Based on the way that the team performed last year, do you feel any pressure to perform at a certain level? Not really. I don't usually put myself any kind of pressure with results. In Sebring, I knew from the past season and Simon's performance that I was helping in a car that was going to allow me to do the job of being up front. I always try to get that out of my head and focus on the process, what I have to do to make that happen.
I really don't put any pressure on myself. I'm a rookie. I don't set any special goals to myself because I think it's the best way to create useless pressure in a way. So I just try to get that out of my head and focus on my job.
Last year you won four races as a rookie in Firestone Indy Lights, won the title, won the Star Mazda title the year before that. How much has the time in the Mazda Road to Indy and that program gotten you to where you are today? It's pretty simple: I wouldn't be here without that program. I'm thankful to Mazda for everything they did for me in the junior formulas.
When I first came over here my first goal and gamble was to win Star Mazda, win this Mazda Road to Indy scholarship, to step up to (Firestone) Indy Lights, because the budget is over half a million dollars to run an Indy Lights program. I knew it was my only chance to step up.
I can really say today the Mazda Road to Indy made things happen for me, along with the help of Sam and the team's partners and my partners.
Simon, it wasn't that long ago for you that you were moving up from a junior series championship to the top level of the sport. What kind of advice do you have to offer to your new teammate? I don't think I have any advice to give him. I'm really glad he's joining us in the team. It's a great prospect, great expansion for the team.
It has been a tremendous season we had last year. Now having the opportunity to be a two-car team is definitely an opportunity for us to be fighting up front. It just shows the dedication Sam and the partners have on the team.
It's really enjoyable. I think Tristan knows exactly what to do. Obviously there's a few things he hasn't done like pit stops and things like that that he's going to have to learn. But he's a ick learner, a ick Frenchman, as well.
You mentioned the success in 2012 you had working as a single-car team. What does the dynamic of the team change, how does it change, with a teammate after being like an only child last year? Well, it's definitely, as I said, an expansion for the team. But it's exactly what we needed. Rob Edwards, he knows exactly how to do this, he knows how to manage his people. He selected wisely who he needed before, and again who he's going to need this year.
I'm very excited. I think everybody on the team is very excited also to get bigger and to work together and try to go fight with the big guys. We've already done that ite a bit last year, but now we can say we have everything we need, all the tools, resources, to go out and do the best we can.
IZOD IndyCar Series