Lundgaard relishing IndyCar despite “no idea” what can be changed

Rahal Letterman Lanigan-Honda’s rookie Christian Lundgaard says he’s impressed with the IndyCar but says he’s still discovering what can and can’t be changed on the car to tailor the handling to suit him.

The 20-year-old Dane, who has previously enjoyed one day of testing at Barber Motorsports Park and then a two-day race weekend in last August’s event on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, was today testing at Sebring’s short course. Without his new teammates, Graham Rahal and Jack Harvey, Lundgaard was learning the 1.7-mile track and re-learning the car solo.

Lundgaard told Motorsport.com that while he enjoyed the car’s handling on the most accurate simulation of a street track that IndyCar teams can find, he’s largely in the hands of his engineers in terms of what adjustments can be made to the Dallara-Honda.

I’m lucky that the F2 car and the IndyCar are reasonably close,” he said. “The tires are a little different. I’m not too worried that I won’t be comfortable in the car in terms of what we can change. The car handles the way it handles and it will handle the same way around different tracks.

“Obviously you can change the setup, and whatever you can change, I don’t want to go into details even learning about it because I feel like the engineers have their job in terms of exploring and understanding these different things. Yes, it’s good to have the knowledge, the understanding of what they do. We can discuss what will be the best options, but in my career so far, I’ve had pretty good experience of what you can change in different cars.

“Luckily I’ve had the experience with an F1 team [Alpine] where you can change a lot of things – a lot of things – and in an IndyCar it’s very accessible to change a lot of things whereas in F2 you can’t really do much for legal reasons, regulations. Here I feel it’s a lot more open.

“Obviously what you can do, I’ve got no idea! I know you can change a lot of things but every single piece, I’ve got no idea.”

“The driver’s feedback to the team is obviously the most crucial part of setting up the car. They have the engineering, the telemetry to understand what the car does. I would say my job is to make the car drive fast with the package that I have, and it’s up to the engineers together with the driver to find out what that optimal package is. The number? Don’t ask me about the numbers: I leave that to the engineers to do all the calculations. But to make the maximum package I would say is an equal relationship between the two of us. They can set up the car without feedback.”

Big things are already expected of Lundgaard thanks to his debut in the NTT IndyCar Series, the Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix. Seventh fastest in the only practice session before qualifying, he then landed fourth on the grid in a fraught pole shootout in which the top five were covered by a mere 0.0484sec.

Lundgaard went on to finish 12th, commenting afterward: “I think tire management is probably where I suffered the most, knowing how much I can push and so on… We were probably more on the safe side than the aggressive side, the target was to get through it and not make any mistakes and I think we survived that.”

Following today’s Sebring test, Lundgaard believes he has “100 percent better understanding of the tires.”

He said: “Already on the Monday morning after the race on Indy GP road course, I already knew from having experience, if we were to re-do the race now, I would know what to do.

“It’s experience – and obviously Pirelli tires [as used in F2] are very different to the Firestones. Already I would say I’m now a Firestone guy – I would prefer to race on Firestones. I don’t know if it’s just because it’s a new experience to try something different.

“I am pretty confident that we will manage the tires well enough. I’ll have Graham by my side and we know he’s strong on tire saving and just pure tire driving. We have a good line-up for the full package.”

Having run a test on a road course, a race on a road course and now a test on faux street course, Lundgaard says he’s not sure where he and/or RLL to perform strongest.

“Obviously from experience, road courses I’m not too worried about,” he said. “I’ve done street circuits in Europe as well, done the famous Grand Prix circuit at Monaco twice. But obviously European street tracks are smooth, not bumpy: they get resurfaced very often.

“So to come here and experience how the car handles over bumps and all these different things has been a good experience. And I’m positively surprised how well the car handles on these kind of bumpy tracks… But I know that we will go to bumpier tracks than here – and longer tracks as well.

“It’s difficult to say which tracks I would perform best or worse on. Once I get to test on an oval I can answer if I will be struggling, but obviously I hope not because we want to win the big one for sure.”

Lundgaard will next try the RLL-Honda, again at Sebring, in a group test on Feb. 14th.

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