One of the highlights of IndyCar’s 2014 season came at the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis, when Simon Pagenaud led the final five laps and took the checkered flag.
It was the Frenchman’s first of two wins last season, then driving with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
Now the four-time Verizon IndyCar Series race winner is with Team Penske and its quartet threat of defending champion Will Power, Juan Pablo Montoya and Helio Castroneves.
After finishing fifth in the season opener, the series heads to the New Orleans area for its inaugural Grand Prix of Louisiana at NOLA Motorsports Park, a track Pagenaud finds similar to the Indianapolis road course.
“To me, NOLA Motorsports Park is similar to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in terms of layout,” Pagenaud said of the 13-turn road course. “You have to be really precise with your braking point and the speed you carry into the corners. I think fans will see good racing and a lot of passing. The new aero kits are going to put on another good show, I believe.”
The show in St. Petersburg, or at least the first half, was slowed down by five cautions, three of which were caused by debris from the wings of the new aero kits. Pagenaud started second in that race and stayed in the top five for most of its run.
“As you saw in the second half of that event, we stayed off of each other a lot more,” Pagenaud said. “We’ll continue to get better in that regard.
“This is a new team and we are going to take a couple of races to really start gelling together, but a top five in our first start is definitely a positive sign and now we are ready to take the next step.”
All four of Pagenaud’s wins to date have occurred on street or road courses. He last won at Houston race two last year.
Doubling down on their commitment to electric auto sports, McLaren Racing announced Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast to compete in the 2023 Formula E Series (FE), which completes their driver lineup.
The NEOM McLaren FE team was formed by the acquisition of the Mercedes-EQ Formula E team that won the 2021 and 2022 championships with Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries behind the wheel.
“Today’s announcement feels like a long time coming,” said Ian James, managing director of NEOM McLaren Electric Racing in a release. “Since May this year, when we first announced McLaren Racing’s entry into Formula E, we have been working tirelessly to get in place the best possible team and structure for sustainable success.
“On the one hand, we have been working on the retention of the amazing talent that already was in place before going into the transitional phase. I’m proud to say I think we’ve done a great job on that front.
“On the other hand, we have been focusing on putting in place new processes and new talent – and the latter includes the drivers.”
The driver lineup clasps the two hands together.
Hughes brings 10 years racing experience in single seater cars, including a role with the acquired Mercedes-EQ team as a reserve and development driver for the past two seasons. He is the 2013 BRDC Formula 4 champion and has multiple wins in Formula 2, including two in 2020.
Announced in August, Rast joins the team after earning two podium finishes and six top-fives in 22 career Formula E starts for Audi Sport ABT before returning to the DTM Series last year. Rast’s best finish in Formula E came in the Puebla E Prix when he finished second to teammate Lucas di Grassi by less than a half second.
McLaren’s commitment to Formula E comes one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour in the driver lineup. After a modest start to the season, the McLaren XE drivers crossed the finish line first in Round 4 in Chile, but were assessed a time penalty that dropped them to fifth. Last week in the season finale in Uruguay, they held onto a hard-earned second place finish.