The 2021 IndyCar season kicks off April 21 at Barber Motorsports Park, and pre-season testing for Team Penske began Feb. 1 at Sebring Raceway. Hot off the heels of a second-place finish in the 24 Hours of Daytona, Pagenaud and the No. 22 team launched their attack plan for the upcoming season. Read on for a check-in with Simon after the test and a look ahead to the upcoming season:
1. Before the test, you called this the most important test of the year. Why do you feel that way - what were some of the big items you wanted to check off with your crew?
It is the biggest test of the year because it sets the tone for the season with the engineers, the crew members, the strategist, and teammates. It is also the time to assess the development items brought by the teams from winter R&D projects and see the positives and negatives and how we can take these developments to the next level. It’s our chance to understand what needs to be better before the season starts. We get very few days of testing. The Sebring test was crucial to understand where we are and what we will need to do in the next few weeks to be strong contenders for the championship.
2. Last year was so unusual with COVID changing the race schedule constantly. Things could still change in 2021, but can you talk a bit about what getting into a regular rhythm will mean for you as you tackle the new race season?
Not having testing time in 2020 really made things difficult. The aero screen changed the way the car was behaving and we didn't have an opportunity to assess that and prepare the way I would have liked. When the season starts and you are in competition mode each weekend, you can’t develop a race car. Nevertheless, it is important to extract the most out of each track, and specifics they have and the most out of your driving. One element that is obviously very important is the vehicle and once the season starts if your car baseline doesn't work well everywhere, then things get complicated. 2020 was unusual with no testing and even less practice during the race weekend. Racing is just very situational and due to this lack of time we found ourselves in a tough spot not being able to do what we wanted to get back on the right track of performance. I look forward to 2021 though. Now we have a better understanding, we have had more testing, and COVID-19 taught all of us how to adapt a bit more. So I look forward to the challenge!
3. After one day of testing, what do you think IndyCar fans can look forward to from a competition standpoint? Any new developments with the car or drivers?
There are no new development this year, but the engine manufacturers keep finding more horsepower each year and our cars are now like an enraged bear that drivers have to wrestle. I look forward to great competition and many teams and drivers having shots at winning races. I expect the #22 team to give a very strong run at Indy again this year and fight for the championship again at the end of the year.