In a revealing, candid interview with Autosport.ru, Russian driver Mikhail Aleshin looked back on his debut Verizon IndyCar Series season and some of the highs and lows that punctuated his campaign.
Aleshin drove the No. 7 SMP Racing Honda for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and ended 16th in the points standings with a best finish of second at Houston race two.
He reflected on his adaptation to America, to ovals, and to the IndyCar Series.
“(It was) a lot of unusual (feelings) and even scarier than anything that I have experienced in the race before,” Aleshin said of ovals.
“Simply incomparable feeling – a fantastic speed and behavior of the machine remains the same: or understeer, or, most worryingly, the excess. Simply because of the speed of all this is perceived differently, and a lot of emotions.
“I suddenly liked ovals. Many on the team to worry about it and told me that all the people of Europe can be divided into two parts: one immediately ovals like, other – just not. If the second – it is bad, because you have no way you can get used to them. But to me they really liked. This is totally different, but very interesting.”
Playing off of that, Aleshin looked back at Pocono with fondness. He ended seventh but thought fourth was possible with a different strategy.
While Aleshin’s fearlessness played to his benefit at the majority of oval races, a rare mistake occurred during night practice at Auto Club Speedway. His spin led to the year’s most scary looking accident in IndyCar, and mercifully, Aleshin emerged from the accident without life-threatening injuries.
He reflected on that, as well.
“It was unpleasant, what to say,” he admitted. “But I felt no fear – just looked like an approaching car, Charlie Kimball and thought. After all the damage I got from the fact that he flew me in the side. So, I thought – “What if he will be able to turn away.” After all, if my car just flew into the wall, I quietly went to the cockpit, went with their feet – most likely, the team even managed to restore everything to start.
“But he did not turn away, I could not, at the same time breaking my monocoque completely broke down the wall near his body. It is clear that he, too, was driving fast and could not do anything because you have seen everything at the last moment, and at this speed and at this distance to do something too late.”
Those two points and more are all summed up in the interview, which is good reading.
It makes you reflect on a driver who was initially dismissed by some as merely a ride-buyer taking another seat on the grid, but instead made a prominent impact on the 2014 season. It’s doubtful he’ll return though, due to funding issues for next season.