IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Tristan Vautier

AP
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MotorSportsTalk continues its look through the Verizon IndyCar Series field, driver-by-driver, with a look at Tristan Vautier. From not having a ride at the start of the year to being on the verge of one again with Dale Coyne Racing next year, Vautier made the most of most of his opportunities.

Tristan Vautier, No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda

  • 2013: 20th Place, Best Finish 10th, Best Start 3rd, 1 Top-10, 2 Laps Led, 16.5 Avg. Start, 16.3 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 22nd Place (11 Starts), Best Finish 4th, Best Start 11th, 1 Top-5, 2 Top-10, 10 Laps Led, 20.3 Avg. Start, 16.5 Avg. Finish

A strange odyssey of a year for Vautier saw him lose rides he thought he had, gain rides he wasn’t expecting, make a couple mistakes, but ultimately deliver enough consistency and stability to produce results.

Vautier became the latest top-level driver to enjoy a stint with Dale Coyne’s team, which isn’t a bad thing. Talented shoes such as the late Justin Wilson, Bruno Junqueira, Oriol Servia, Cristiano da Matta and Alex Lloyd – who like Vautier all won championships in junior open-wheel formulas – have passed through those halls. Considering he was in a poor spot after a rookie 2013 season with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports that failed to meet expectations, re-entering with almost zero expectations in the friendly confines of the Illinois-based team’s operation was a great thing for him.

As such, he got better as the year went on. After his car rotation at Indianapolis, a fluke fourth occurred at Detroit and a similarly good sixth happened at Mid-Ohio after leading, both thanks to typically brilliant Coyne fuel gambles that played out. But even more than those two, the drive that stood out to me was Iowa, where he finished on the lead lap in 12th, having finally felt comfortable on the whole with the car, the team, and with ace engineer Michael Cannon.

A glaring mistake came at Pocono, when Vautier got a run on championship contender Graham Rahal going into Turn 3 and took them both out. In hindsight, it was a move he probably could have avoided making, but you understand why he went for it.

Comparing results in Coyne cars must be viewed differently – a 16th or 17th in this field is the equivalent of say an ninth or 10th for other teams – with anything beyond that a bonus. Usually, Vautier exceeded the equipment at his disposal, and he was the perfect driver to stabilize the lineup after a rocky first few races as the team rotated drivers. It was a significantly better second season for him than his first in 2013.