The only confirmed rookie for the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series, Tristan Vautier, tested at Sebring International Raceway last week with less pressure than his first IndyCar outing.
The 2012 Firestone Indy Lights champion made his IndyCar test debut in December also at Sebring, in what was an audition for several teams.
Since that point, Vautier raced at the Rolex 24 at Daytona sports car race in a Mazda6 and got his IndyCar contract signed, sealed and delivered with the renamed Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Vautier’s teammate is his French countryman and 2012 IndyCar rookie-of-the-year, Simon Pagenaud.
“It’s a good start, but I have a lot to improve,” Vautier told RACER.com after the test. “There are many new factors once you get to the races. It’s two good tests at one track, so you have to be careful to think it has a bigger meaning.”
Vautier is the second straight Indy Lights champion to advance into IndyCar the next year after Josef Newgarden, and fourth in the last five years (Raphael Matos in 2009, and JR Hildebrand made his debut in 2010).
The expectations shouldn’t be too high for Vautier this season, as he gathers experience and laps. But he’s already proven quick out of the gate in his formative years in the American open-wheel ladder system, and has championships in back-to-back years.
No rookie has won an IndyCar Series race since Justin Wilson at Detroit in 2008. That’s a technicality as Wilson was classified as a rookie in the merged IndyCar series due to minimal oval experience, but he had four prior years in the Champ Car series.
Robert Doornbos (Champ Car, 2007) and Marco Andretti (IndyCar, 2006) were the last first-year drivers to win a race in their rookie seasons.