Friday, April 26, 2013

Engines and Tenderloins: Q&A; With Tristan Vautier

Tristan Vautier isn't just making some waves as a rookie in the IZOD IndyCar Series; he's also a remarkably nice guy. I reached out to the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver to do a Q&A about his season so far, Honda's engine performance, being a teammate with Simon Pagenaud, and couple of other areas of interest, to boot. Spend your Friday doing a bit of light reading about IndyCar's newest driver:

Tristan, thanks again. How would sum up your rookie experience through the first three races of the season?

TV: It's been a great experience so far. I've definitely been able to realize how much it takes to put a good result together at this level of the sport. The field is incredibly competitive and tight, and you really have to be on it and put things together to be in the high part of the lap time charts. Then if you achieve this, it takes even more to convert it into a result during the race, because so much happens and you can't do one mistake; pitstops, restarts, traffic, tire degradation, push-to pass management...

The job out of the car is a lot more than before as well. The debriefs are longer, it's technically more demanding, you have more PR work, so you have to adapt your routine to all of that.

As a Honda driver, do you think Honda's dominating performance at Long Beach should quiet any talk that Hondas were at some sort of deficit versus Chevy?

TV: I think that the talk should have been made quiet from the start, and Long Beach shows for it. Honda and HPD have shown over the last 20 years how good they are. Yes, there were two Chevys on pole for the first two races and Chevy got the St. Pete podium, but people always start to talk and make conclusions too quickly. I've never been worried and I couldn't be happier than with the Honda engine.

Before the season started, did you have any doubts you were ready for IndyCar?

TV: I never really wondered whether I was or not. I had won the lower level so it was logical to step up. I knew how much I would have to learn and I still have a lot to learn.

(Courtesy IndyCar Media)
Simon Pagenaud is obviously a driver that's extremely well-respected in the paddock and stands alike. How would you describe the communication and feedback between you two? Does it help to share a common native language, even when you're discussing more technical terms?

TV: We get on really well. We've been knowing each other for a while as friends and working together has been very good since the start of the season. We can have different feedback sometimes and don't always want the same from the car so it makes it interesting. Simon is extremely fast and has a lot of experience so I'm very fortunate to have the chance to benefit from that, especially as a rookie.

Sharing the same language is fun but in terms of work it doesn't really change anything.

Obviously you don't want to overlook São Paulo, but have you started mentally preparing for your first Indy 500?

TV: No. I'm incredibly excited about the Indy 500 but we have been so busy working on the road courses ahead of us than I've not had time to think about it too much. I try to take it one step at a time.

Speaking of Indy, have you tried one of the Track Tenderloins yet, or do we need to get you acquainted with the delicacy that is an Indiana pork tenderloin?

TV: I haven't! I'd love to try it.

You received a nice ovation from the fans after climbing out of the car in St. Pete. Have you been surprised at all at the rather warm reception you've gained from the fans as a rookie?

TV: I've been very impressed by how nice and welcoming the fans have been to me. It's always good to meet them during the autograph sessions and exchange a few words. The ovation in St Pete was an amazing feeling.

As last season's Firestone Indy Lights champ, what do you think of this year's field--anyone you see as a favorite to win this year's Lights title?

TV: I think that the field is of great quality this year. Yes, there are not many cars, but if you look at how many fast drivers are entered you realize how high the level is. As a Schmidt-Peterson guy, my favorite would be any car of our team!

I think a lot of folks have seen the Bass Pro video with you and Pags. Any hunting or fishing trips scheduled in the near future, or what other ways do you spend any leisure time you might have?

TV: To be honest, with all the traveling we do I think my favorite hobby is to chill out at home! I enjoy going to the beach when I have spare time, it relaxes me. But usually most of the time I have when I'm home is spent working out and doing stuff around racing!

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