This year’s Indianapolis 500 champion Simon Pagenaud says he’s fascinated by the technology in Formula 1 – but that the cars might be almost too good as a result.
“F1 was very interesting to watch because the technology is fascinating,” Pagenaud told RACER magazine after attending the Hungarian Grand Prix at the beginning of the month, where he waved the chequered flag at the finish.
“The aerodynamics on the car are absolutely stunning. Beautiful. I love little winglets here and there.
“I love to see the flow of the air,” he continued. “How the Red Bull has worked on the sidepods and almost sculpting to get the air flow going to the radiators is just phenomenal.
“The cars are fast, grippy,” he added. “Almost too good – making it look like they are on rails!”
Technology in motor racing is often criticised for hiding the ‘human dimension’ of the sport, but Pagenaud said that Lewis Hamilton’s determined drive to take victory away from Max Verstappen in Hungary proved that was not the case.
“When Hamilton went for it in Hungary, you could see the body language of the car change,” he insisted. “It seems like the drivers are having fun driving these cars.
“I love to see that. We had a great race there.”
And Pagenaud said he was a fan of the Hungaroring itself, often criticised for being too tight, twisty and dusty to allow for ‘proper’ on-track racing between drivers.
“I think the track actually helps racing because of the sequence of turn 1, turn 2,” he suggested. “You can run side-by-side, and then by turn 3 you have to decide who is going to yield.
“A lot of the tracks need a combination that helps running side-by-side, and you also need the grip on the outside to make it work.”
Despite starting his professional racing career with Frederic Vasseur’s ART Formula Renault team in 2003, Pagenaud has never had the opportunity to crack F1.
“IndyCar is very much about the show and making sure the fans enjoy watching,” he mused when asked about the differences between the two championships.
“The drivers and IndyCar work really close together to try to find the best formula for racing, to make a good show.
“That’s what IndyCar is about; it’s about being loud, pure racing and not about contact but about a muscle car. It’s not about technology as much.
“F1 is very sophisticated. It’s a very different market, it’s not the same sport. It’s like comparing cricket and football,” he commented. “I was impressed at how beautiful F1 is in the paddock, and how well organized it is.
“Obviously, F1 compared to IndyCar – there’s a lot more discrepancy between cars because manufacturers make their own cars,” he added. “It’s very different, but I think both have their advantages.
“The interesting thing is when they started Lewis’s Mercedes on the grid, I turned around and thought it was my IndyCar! It sounds the same; that idle sounds the same.
“That’s the way the sport’s been going – whether it’s sports car racing, whether it’s IndyCar, whether it’s Formula 1,” he added. “It’s the evolution of technology.
“Smaller engines and turbos are always going to make less noise than a V12 with no turbos. It’s just the way manufacturers are going these days, to save fuel and be more efficient.”
One thing that does link F1 and IndyCar is ongoing debate about aerodynamics and how to improve on-track competition.
“It’s not just the aerodynamics, in my opinion, that makes good racing,” insisted Pagenaud, who felt that this year’s IndyCar regulations had finally managed to find the right balance.
“It’s interesting you say Formula 1 is looking at aerodynamics that provide better racing,” he said. “I remember the years with the big front wing and the small rear wing, and they were horrible races too.
“I think the formula [in IndyCar] is actually perfect right now,” he said. “It’s the best formula IndyCar ever found.
“So I honestly don’t know what’s right or not for F1, but I thought Hungary was a fantastic race.”
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