Pagenaud looking to build on strong Iowa run one year ago

0 Comments

Perhaps the best performance of Simon Pagenaud’s rookie season in the IZOD IndyCar Series came at Iowa Speedway. The Frenchman had a poor qualifying effort and had to start 25th on the grid for last year’s Iowa Corn Indy 250, but managed to charge through the field and come home fifth – an impressive feat for a driver that had only done a handful of oval races in his career at that point.

“In our first year at Iowa Speedway, it took us some time to understand what to do with the race car,” he recalls. “In the race, my engineers hit the sweet spot though and the car was really nice to drive. I was able to be aggressive and we made up a ton of ground. I was running in the top-three at the end, so I learned a lot that day.

“I figured out how aggressive I needed to be to succeed here and I hope to do the same this weekend.”

Pagenaud comes to Iowa looking to get back on form after following up his maiden IndyCar victory in the second Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit race with 13th and 12th-place finishes at Texas and Milwaukee respectively. It will be interesting to see if he’s quick off the trailer and can save himself from having to come from the back of the field like he had to last year.

Learning the right amount of aggression at Iowa will be useful for him, but he knows that must be tempered with a constant focus. Iowa has drivers rattling off laps every 18 seconds and going over bumps that have become a part of the high-banked short oval’s character, making for a tough challenge.

“You pretty much spend the whole time in the corners in Iowa,” he said. “There are a lot of bumps, so you have to stay very focused on your line. There’s not really any downtime to think about anything else. You’re just trying to be proactive on the car’s behavior and keep your car as straight as possible when you cross the bumps.”

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
0 Comments

Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.