An interview with: Sebastien Bourdais, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to our final round qualifying press conference for the Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by LaSalle...
An interview with: Sebastien Bourdais, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to our final round qualifying press conference for the Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland Presented by LaSalle Bank.
Our polesitter today is Sebastien Bourdais, who ran a time of 56.363 seconds, speed of 134.514 miles per hour. A quick note for our media, in our media guide there is an error on the track record. The speed is correct but the time is wrong. The current track record is 56.283 seconds, 134.705 miles per hour.
Unfortunately, Sebastien, you didn't set a new track record today, but you still won the pole position. Last time you sat on the pole here you won the race.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Still get the point?
THE MODERATOR: You still get the point (laughter).
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, last time we sat on the pole we went on to lead the race after a big fight with Paul. It brings us back four years back. It's a good feeling obviously. It's about the closest margin you can hope.
I think the option tires are a little tougher to work. We struggled a little bit. In the first run we got some traffic also. It wasn't really the best run we could hope for, but the McDonald's car is very good.
This session, as yesterday, only took place in the first half, and the second half was ruined by red flags and traffic. It's very typical of the racetrack.
Unfortunately when it's a 56-second lap, it doesn't give you much distance between the 17 cars we have on the track.
That's the way it is. You've got to manage it. We did pretty good today. It's good time for the race of tomorrow.
THE MODERATOR: By earning the pole for tomorrow's race, Sebastien secured his second pole position of the season and 27th of his career.
The gentleman starting next to him will be making his first start from the front row in Champ Car. Simon, what does it mean to start on the front row?
SIMON PAGENAUD: I think it's going to be quite spectacular. I'm just very proud about what Team Australia did today. We were struggling a little bit in the morning. Went back to the truck, worked quite hard with my engineer.
I'm very happy because we had very good discussion, very good communication together. We went back on track this afternoon. The car was just perfect. Went back to pit lane and I said, That's the best car I ever had. We can do it. Put black tires on. Did quite a decent lap. Could have been a little bit better. But, you know, got some traffic.
But I'm very happy about what we did. After that, we had the red flag. I put red tires on before. Unfortunately, we didn't have time to see what the red tires were doing. Looked like we could have gone quicker.
We know we have a very good race car. I think we're going to be up there tomorrow. We're going to try to do a good strategy, save fuel. We'll see where we end up, but I'm sure we'll be up there.
THE MODERATOR: Will, starting third. Just got nipped by your teammate there today. What does that mean?
WILL POWER: Yeah, I think we're in a pretty good position for the race because, as you've seen in past years, there's a lot of mayhem. I had a look at last year's race. I count every single person, every driver in the whole field made a mistake, spun or ran off, got hit off, whatever.
I think it's going to be pretty mixed up tomorrow. I think it will be a lot of fun for the fans.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions from the media.
Q: Will, you said every driver made a mistake last year, what was yours?
WILL POWER: I ran off on the fast chicane, lost some front wing, yeah.
Q: You have the choice of starting on the inside or outside tomorrow. Have you made up your mind?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, obviously we've got to think championship. Inside is the obvious choice. It's probably not the cleanest, but we've got to just be able to get to that preferred line, I think. We'll see what happens.
There's also -- when we did the track run, there's a pretty major concern with the paint on the track that affects the polesitter quite a bit. We're going to have to talk a bit about it and see what happens.
Q: You still haven't made up your mind yet?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No. It's a little confusing right now, but we'll try and make the best of it.
Q: Sebastien, can you comment about the rookie class?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, I think obviously we have quite a bit of testing in the series, especially in the first half of the season. They're very talented. Simon won the Atlantic Series. He knows that place from last year. He's getting right up there with Will. That just proves that the density is at the front, then obviously it tends to falls off a little bit.
When people ask me if it's easy to win, no, it's not. It's very competitive up front. To put the car on pole always takes a little bit of extra.
I think it's very enjoyable. That's the way we like racing.
Q: If not for the red flag at the end do you think you could have beat the track record?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, I mean, I think there was quite a bit of potential. We were out there. One lap after the red flag is just not enough. The tires seem to take a little bit of time to come in. There was about four or five minutes left when the red flag came out.
With the standard tires I think we had a pretty good shot at getting through that rhythm. That helps you to go quicker and quicker lap after lap.
It's pretty much the same for everybody, so you can't anticipate how much progress you're going to be able to make compared to the others.
Q: Sebastien, with all the rookies here, does it make it any easier on the veterans?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: No, I mean, like I said, they're talented guys. It's not because they're considered rookies that they're beginners in open-wheel racing. They've been successful in any form of racing they've been involved in, especially the guys from Red Bull coming from Europe. They've touched Formula One.
They've done the whole loop around and around and around. People know what they're doing. You don't look at the rookies like rookies. You look at the rookies like opponents.
Q: Have you done any practice on the concrete? Will it be a different start?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I don't think it's actually concrete. It's asphalt, too. It's just white asphalt. The big difference is that it's grooved asphalt because of the runway. Yeah, it's interesting. We practice in pit lane where it's nice and new tarmac. Then you go on the racetrack, it's striped and everything. It's going to be a little tough to anticipate what kind of grip we're going to get.
Q: Any chance to do that in morning warmup?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: We can always bring it up and see what happens. It's pretty unsure to happen.
Q: Sebastien, you are the one that brought Simon over to Atlantics last season, how do you feel about him starting on the front row with you?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, I'm just very happy for him. I think obviously if I try to help him it's because I think he deserves it. He's just proving he belongs to Champ Car as good as anybody else. He's doing a very fine job. Yeah, I'm very happy for him.
Q: Will, yesterday we talked about between turns 4 and 5, they did some work there yesterday, did you notice a difference?
WILL POWER: What did they do (laughter)?
Q: They patched up the asphalt.
WILL POWER: Really? I didn't notice at all. I don't know whether anyone else did.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think when we did the track run, on the edges of the patches you could see it was breaking off. They probably just cleaned that out and repatched it to make sure there was not going to be any piece of asphalt or concrete flying off.
But from the inside, you can't tell. It's just a stripe of an inch.
Q: The crown.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: It's been like that for 20 years; it's not going to change tomorrow (laughter).
Q: With more grip out there did you notice any more room to pass?
WILL POWER: I think it's going to be the same as every year. You're going to have to rely on someone to make a bit of a mistake to have a go, except for the first lap. I think everyone is going to be trying to get as many positions as they can because that's when you're at the closest, is on cold tires.
SIMON PAGENAUD: I think we will have some passing in the first few laps when we're going to be on cold tires, especially after the pit stop. This is where you can make position because some drivers are on different strategy. You're on warm tires. They're on cold tires. You can pass.
For us, it's all in the same strategy. It's going to be tough to pass. Obviously we have the power to pass, which really helps for passing. Turn one is going to be the place, the spot where everybody's going to try to pass everyone.
Q: When you say "turn one," you're talking about the first lap?
SIMON PAGENAUD: No, I'm saying especially in the first lap. But turn one is the only place I think where we can pass.
Q: Will, starting third tomorrow, if you have a start like in Portland you will be leading by half a lap, how do you think tomorrow will go?
WILL POWER: That's right (laughter). Well, it's a different grip level. It's hard to tell. You don't have any opportunity to really feel what it's going to be like because the pit lane's a different asphalt.
I'm not sure. I think everyone's probably going to be working on their starts now. It will be a little closer.
Q: When the lights go out, don't you just go as fast as you can?
WILL POWER: Well. Yeah. It depends on wheel spin. If you get too much wheel spin, you're on the dusty side of the circuit, you don't get a good start. Usually the wheels spin up, other people grip, and off they go. There's a lot of variables on a standing start: reaction time, grip, all that.
Q: There's no way to know? You can't tell till you're running down that front straightaway?
WILL POWER: That's right. You're not accelerating. You're rolling over at speed. You have no idea.
Q: Will are you going to talk Sebastien into choosing the preferred line or talk to your teammate about the start?
WILL POWER: No, I think Sebastien needs to get the best lane, the gripiest start, or the best start. Sebastien, take the outside. I think there's more grip (laughter).
Q: There was a lot of difference with the red tires, can you talk about that?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Well, I think no matter what you do you have to put and try at least one set of options. You know, as far as we're concerned, we felt like the car was a touch faster on the primes, and the balance was better.
It definitely feels like there is a little bit more grip on the options, but it's pretty tough to use. It seems, at least to us, to disconnect the car some.
Sometimes it's just as good to probably save one set so you know you'll be starting on a new set. It's a pretty good advantage. The rest of the race, you'll manage and see what you want to put on the car.
But, yeah, we just felt like for the people who had tried them yesterday, a little bit of the other swing, they maybe feel they had a better car or they found something with the options yesterday, so they restarted with primes and put the options on the second set.
Anyway, it was a big wash because nobody got anything out of the second set, so...
THE MODERATOR: Just want to remind everyone, coverage of the Champ Car Grand Prix of Cleveland will be on CBS Sports at 1:00 eastern time tomorrow. Thank you.