It’s take two for “Seb squared,” with Sebastian Saavedra rejoining Sebastien Bourdais for a second straight year in the IndyCar Series. The difference is, this year it’s at KV Racing, compared to Dragon Racing in 2013.
On a conference call Wednesday, Saavedra spoke highly of the chance to work with Bourdais again, as did KV team co-owner Jimmy Vasser.
“Keeping the Sebastians together is important,” Vasser said. “I know how they work, because the first season is awkward with new teammates. How they’ve worked together good or bad. It will be beneficial.”
“I have a four-time champ as a teammate, it’s more of a benefit than anything,” Saavedra said. “I want to build my own career, forge my own path, but for sure I will use his expertise. Driving with him last year, we know each other, know where he came from. We build it throughout the season and he didn’t need to teach me that much. We’re going to be an interesting pair.”
Vasser also said that Saavedra surprised him at times with his pace early in 2013.
“At times with Conquest and last year early on, he was really being very competitive to outpacing Bourdais, that was very impressive,” Vasser said. “The speed is there. It takes a few years to get comfortable in this series, and then start to have your legs underneath you.”
Saavedra tests today at Sonoma, and will have further tests in Sebring and Texas before the official preseason test at Barber in March.
To this point, Saavedra’s had an uneven IndyCar career. He’s only 23, and 2014 will mark his third full season with his third different team, after spending the 2011 season with Conquest Racing and last year with Dragon. He stepped down to Indy Lights in 2012, and raced with Andretti Autosport in an AFS-backed entry with a handful of IndyCar starts.
Purely on results, Saavedra has done little to merit a seat. In 38 career starts, Saavedra only has two top-10 finishes – eighth at Baltimore and 10th at Detroit Race 2 last year. He did outqualify Bourdais five times in 2013, but due to an engineering tailspin and other crew changes in the second half of the year, his qualifying fell off dramatically. He did not start better than 18th in any of the last 10 races.
He hasn’t had a truly “wow” moment in IndyCar. When you think of the things that stand out, it was a last-minute qualifying effort on the first day of qualifying at Indy 2012, so he wouldn’t need to qualify on Bump Day, or his Dragon car’s blue chrome paint glitter-bombing the track in last year’s practice, or his double-bird outburst against Marco Andretti in Detroit that cost him $30,000 and put him on probation.
Still, you get the sense that, like a Simona de Silvestro before she advanced to KV last year, Saavedra’s still not had a great opportunity with better equipment.
He occasionally overachieved with Conquest, showed flashes of speed in his Andretti cameos, and had a pair of ninth place starts to open 2013 with Dragon, so he has his moments.
In Indy Lights in 2012, he regularly beat teammate Carlos Munoz, who’s now racing with Andretti. In that 2009 rookie season, he won twice and finished third in the points, ahead of future IndyCar race winners James Hinchcliffe and Charlie Kimball. He only trailed JR Hildebrand and James Davison.
There are occasional flashes of brilliance. He just needs to deliver with greater consistency in 2014.