Pagenaud: F1 sparked my passion for motorsport

This year’s Indianapolis 500 champion Simon Pagenaud says that for all his success in the US IndyCar Series, his early dream was always to race in Formula 1.

“When I was four years old, I saw Senna and Prost fighting,” he told Motorsport-Magazin.com. “That was what sparked my passion for motorsport.

“I would love to test a Formula 1 car. They are the most advanced cars on the planet. But racing is of course another story.”

Pageuand was a guest of the Renault team at the Hungarian Grand Prix in the summer where he got to “meet some people”, but he doesn’t realistically expect anything to come of it.

“I’d like to give it a try to see what the cars are like. It would be nice. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to happen.”

While other Indy 500 winners in the past have been able to use their success in US open wheel racing to make the move into F1 – including Jacques Villeneuve and Juan Pablo Montoya – Pagenaud admits that this is unlikely in his case.

At 35 years of age, the French-born driver acknowledges that he’s probably missed his chance to get into a strong team, especially with so many talented youngsters such as Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris already breaking through.

Pagenaud said he wouldn’t want to go somewhere just to make up the numbers. “My goal is to win races and championships,” he insisted.

Simon Pagenaud (FRA) Team Penske IndyCar Driver with Red Bull Racing on the grid.

In IndyCar, he clinched the series title in 2016 (and was runner-up in 2017 and again in 2019) and has won 14 races in 127 outings over seven years, most recently with the prestigious Penske team.

That’s more than vindicated his decision in 2006 to quit the expensive European tour – and his chances of breaking into F1 – to move to the United States to complete in Champ Car and the American Le Mans Series.

“That was my path, and I succeeded,” he stated.

While the F1 dream might no longer be in his sights, there’s still plenty he wants to do in motorsport. “For example I want to go back to Le Mans and win this race,” he said, adding that it would be satisfying to “finish the job I started.”

But right now he has no intention of going anywhere other than where he is, and continue to race in IndyCar for years to come.

“My future is what I am doing in IndyCar,” he confirmed.

“It would mean the world to me to be the most successful driver in Indianapolis,” he said. “But of course, this dream is still a long way off.”

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F1 cars 'almost too good', says Indy 500 champ Pagenaud

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.

Nico Hulkenberg (GER) Renault F1 Team and Daniel Ricciardo (AUS) Renault F1 Team with Simon Pagenaud (FRA) Team Penske IndyCar Driver.

“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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Pagenaud beats Rossi to 2019 Indy 500 victory

Penske driver Simon Pagenaud successfully powered his way to victory lane in the 2019 Indianapolis 500, after starting the race from pole position.

Despite concerns about inclement weather, the race was untroubled by the elements and built to a thrilling climax following a dramatic multi-car crash, as Pagenaud battled to hold off 2016 race winner Alexander Rossi all the way to the line.

Pagenaud held the early lead over team mate Will Power, with ECR’s Ed Carpenter and Spender Pigot close behind. The French driver was able to stay in front during an early restart triggered by the retirement of teenage racer Colton Herta with a gearbox issue in turn 3 on lap 4.

Pagenaud pitted for the first time on lap 32 of 200, marking the first lead change of the afternoon. The sequence of pit stops also saw Helio Castroneves clash with James Davison on pit lane, the three-time Indy 500 winner earning a drive-through penalty after spinning the Dale Coyne Racing car.

The incident didn’t trigger a full course yellow and Pagenaud retook the lead once the other cars completed their own stops. The race remained green despite the retirement of Ben Hanley with a drive shaft issue, and Jordan King running into one of his pit crew members. That was serious enough to require the attendance of the safety crew.

The second yellow materialised when Juncos Racing’s Kyle Kaiser – the driver who bumped Fernando Alonso off the grid in last weekend’s qualifying – spun out at turn 2 and took a heavy hit against the wall.

Drivers pitted under the caution, with Power the latest to suffer misfortune on pit lane when he too hit one of his pit crew for which he was sent to the back of the field for the restart.

When the race resumed, Pagenaud continued to lead but came under increasing pressure from Carpenter. He then pitted just before the halfway point of the race, but once again was back on top then the other stops were completed.

Now it was Andretti Autosport’s Rossi who was now leading the challenge to the Penske domination, despite frustration for the American with slow pit stops caused by a faulty fuel sensor.

His race was also affected by a new yellow flag on lap 138 for former F1 driver Marcus Ericsson, who spun out of eighth place while leaving pit road. The timing of the caution was unfortunate for those yet to stop, including Scott Dixon and his Ganassi team mate Felix Rosenqvist, as well as for Dale Coyne’s rookie driver Santino Ferrucci.

The race resumed on lap 149 with Pagenaud back in charge, having led 102 laps so far – the first time a driver had led more than 100 laps in the Indy 500 since 2010. But Pagenaud was immediately under pressure from another of the Penske posse, as Josef Newgarden took control two laps later.

Pagenaud was content to follow in his team mate’s tow which allowed him to save some fuel. Even so, he was the first man in for the next – and final – scheduled pit stop on lap 170. It meant he was still fuel saving when he came back out, allowing Rossi to make up lost ground.

The race then took a dramatic turn when a clash between Sebastien Bourdais and Graham Rahal on lap 178 triggered a multi-car accident that caught up Zach Veach, Felix Rosenqvist, and Charlie Kimball, as well as resulting in an 18-minute red flag for clean-up operations.

The caution was good news for Pagenaud, whose fuel issues were now considerably alleviated in the final 13-lap shoot-out to the finish. Rossi looked the faster of the cars, but once back out in front Pagenaud worked hard to deprive him of the all-important tow down the long straights.

Simon Pagenaud wins the 2019 Indianapolis 500

© IndyCar Media

When the chequered flag came out it was Pagenaud in the lead, and an emotional Rossi had to settle for second. They were followed to the yard of bricks by Takuma Sato who had successfully pulled off some decisive late passed on Newgarden, Power and Carpenter.

Ferrucci – who had only just squeaked through that multi-car wreck – finished seventh ahead of series veterans Ryan Hunter-Reay and Tony Kanaan. Rounding out the top ten was former GP3 driver Conor Daly, with James Hinchcliffe, James Davison, Ed Jones and Spencer Pigot all finishing within ten seconds of the race winner.

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