IndyCar: Andretti camp interested in Simon Pagenaud for 2015

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Simon Pagenaud’s evolution into a Verizon IndyCar Series championship contender has attracted the attention of one of the series’ big teams.

Andretti Autosport owner Michael Andretti has told The Associated Press that he’s interested in acquiring the Frenchman’s services for next season, although he did not disclose if that means his team would add a fifth car.

Andretti also stressed that “we’re a long ways away from something” in his comments.

“He’s one of the top guys out here, and he’s a really good guy, too,” Andretti said of Pagenaud, who is in his third season of racing for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. “He’d fit in great with our team.”

For his part, Pagenaud played it cool when he talked about Andretti’s interest in him. He told the AP that such interest lets him know that he’s doing a good job.

“You have job security when you are in that position because you know there’s interest in you,” Pagenaud said. “People have noticed the job you are doing.”

As for his prospects to either join Andretti or stay with Schmidt, Pagenaud only said: “We’ll see what happens next.”

Since coming to IndyCar full-time in 2012, Pagenaud has made steady progress to become of the series’ top drivers.

After finishing an impressive fifth in the ’12 overall championship, he improved on that last year with a third-place finish on the strength of wins at Detroit and Baltimore.

Going into this weekend’s Shell/Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston doubleheader, Pagenaud sits fourth in the standings at 91 points behind championship leader Will Power. He won the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis last month on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

Brown: Dennis would have made same decision on McLaren-Honda split

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Zak Brown believes former McLaren team boss Ron Dennis would have made the same decision to cut ties with struggling Formula 1 engine partner Honda had he still been in charge at the team in 2017.

McLaren executive director Brown helped engineer a deal for the team to split with Honda at the end of the 2017 season after three tough seasons that had seen the Japanese manufacturer offer little in the way of performance or reliability.

The decision split opinion, with McLaren spurning a significant annual financial injection from Honda in order to link up with Renault, believing its on-track fortunes had to be prioritized over its commercial interests.

In an interview with Sky Sports, Brown was asked if he believed Dennis – McLaren’s long-running team chief before stepping down at the end of 2016 – would have made the same decision to cut ties with Honda.

“I think he would have,” Brown said.

“He was here when those conversations were ongoing and I think Ron always has and always will have the best interests of McLaren in his heart.

“He is Mr. McLaren. It burns him inside as much as us not to see us winning races.”

Brown also elaborated on the decision to break off the much-lauded relationship with Honda, saying the first signs of trouble with the 2017 power unit were clear in pre-season.

After a number of attempts to try and rectify the situation, Brown and his fellow team bosses felt there was no alternative but to end the Honda deal for 2018.

“We knew we were in trouble in testing in Barcelona and we worked really hard for six months to try and find solutions that would give us confidence that we’d be much more competitive in 2018,” Brown said.

“Ultimately, after trying many different things and many different ways we felt we couldn’t get there.

“Three years is a long time in Formula 1 and so we needed to change the direction to get our team back at the top.”