A Conversation With Andretti Autosport
MODERATOR: We have Andretti Autosport with us, a talented group. The good news for this team is we've seen several of them already in the press conference center. First of all, congratulations. Awfully good month thus far. Marco, you've been in a couple times this month. Appears you have a pretty good race car.
MARCO ANDRETTI: We've been working on exactly that. We were able to pick up a tow and stay flat in a lot of traffic. We're able to do some decent times. Obviously, today that time will get slaughtered. Hopefully we can do it again. It's been a lot of fun working with the four of them. I think we could simulate our own race. It's been fun also because you know every time the five of us roll out, the big time of the day is going up, whether by one of us or somebody trying to tag along with us. We've been really working on that. Obviously, today and tomorrow is qualifying. I think a couple of them have a really good shot at front row, if not the pole. I'll just be happy if I'm in the top 10. If I could start in the top 10, I'd be pleased. From there we can definitely win the race.
MODERATOR: We have a limited timeframe so we'll take some questions.
Q: Marco, what about today? How much different will it be out there?
MARCO ANDRETTI: I don't know. I mean, it depends if it's 2 miles an hour or 7, which we're hearing a bit of both. I think if it's 2 miles an hour, I don't know if we'll feel it that much. If it's 7, we're going to have to work on finding mechanical grip, trying to make the cars a bit more comfortable. But it's the same for everybody. We're just going to have to be the ones who adapt better.
Q: When you have gotten the Andretti freight train out there, have you already pretty much done the majority of your race and setup work prior to Sunday?
MARCO ANDRETTI: I think me, right now it's between two different setups for me. I have one or two changes in my head to try. I think if we had to race right now, we'd be tough to beat. If one of these two changes work, we'd be really tough to beat.
Q: Marco, do you feel you can win the pole this year?
MARCO ANDRETTI: We'll have to see. We've been rubbing on this thing. We didn't roll out yesterday. We've been working on every little detail. You never know. Maybe the turbo can wake my car up. It's been off the pace a little bit, even to my teammates'. Overall, our team still has decent pace. But, yeah, I'm off my teammates right now a little bit. I'll be flat.
Q: Your impressions of the month so far, starting with Sebastian.
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: For sure, it's been a very exciting month so far, mostly being able to work with four experienced drivers. You can actually take advantage of trying to develop this car. Being a new car, being a new engine, it's a great position for me because we are, I'll say, starting from zero. It makes me not be so behind from the others. But it's been great so far. I think we've managed to get a very quick car as well as a very strong race car. Being able to have four other drivers that try different stuff at the same time, we have gone through lots of lists and found very interesting stuff. So it has been a matter of development. Being part of that development, it's very fun in having this new car. But exciting. We'll see what's going to happen today in Fast Friday. Of course, having a little bit more power, it's going to be interesting to see. As Marco said, we're blind. We don't know how much it's going to be different. We're looking forward to keep doing a good job.
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I think Marco hit it on the head. I'm going to put it down to the teams working the offseason. Last year was a kick in the rear end for us. The guys have come out working hard making these cars fast. Open communication in the room. That's just been a lot of fun. No egos are in the way. Everybody has the end goal in mind, which has helped this month. Allowed us to get down to business and really make strides. It's been a lot of fun, and now comes the important bit. We need to get qualifying sorted, work a little bit more on our race car on Sunday. If all goes as it looks right now, we'll have some of the biggest threats out there on race day. Hopefully we'll be contending for that race win, all of us, there at the end. That would be the ideal situation. It's just been a lot of fun. I've really enjoyed it so far. Hopefully it continues that way.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: The points have been hit on. The guys have done a tremendous amount of work to get the cars ready for the Speedway. The teamwork, the team, you've been hearing a lot from us not only this month, all season long, this is not some company line we're spewing, we're working together and you've seen the results. It's been awesome. To come here with five cars now, sticking to the program that we laid out before the month even started, I've been super-impressed that we've managed to do that. Normally you make a plan on a race weekend, within about 15 minutes of the first practice, you've deviated off it. We've remained on target. Today it's like Opening Day all over again with the extra boost. There's going to be some more questions to be asked and answers for today and tomorrow. I think we have pretty quick cars in race trim, and we're sitting in a pretty good position for this weekend and next.
ANA BEATRIZ: It's been a great month, great experience to be with Andretti, and with the help of Conquest. It's tough a little bit because the crew is new, so we're getting there. Great to have fast teammates that were able to push us up. Even we are trying to find the speed in the car, they were developing the setup. I think yesterday was a great job of the team. I think we found some speed. Was a relief. But glad that we had a great communication. Everybody is helping each other. So I'm pretty confident. Today is going to be another day, different day, more power. It's going to be interesting to see how the car feels like. But having five cars again, a lot of things going on, I think it's going to help us find the best way for qualifying. I'm pretty confident. Sunday again running in traffic, give us more confidence with traffic, tune the car a little bit here and there. I think we're all confident and happy. Hopefully we stay like this.
Q: Marco, I'm sure you hear a few stories from your dad and grandpa about being here for weeks and weeks. Talk about the shorter format for Indy, whether you'd like to see it longer or you're used to it.
MARCO ANDRETTI: Yeah, I'd be in a race car, especially this place every day, if they let me. I absolutely love driving here. I love just being here. But, yeah, I mean, I don't know, nowadays we have these things so dialed in so quick. Famous last words. We were able to get the hold of things so quick. Not just our team, but the caliber of teams and drivers out there. Literally, we can have a three-day weekend here and still be pretty quick. Obviously when we were good the other day, we wished we would have raced the other day. It's a roller coaster. You have to be mentally prepared for that. When you're on top one day, it's literally like starting over, and you just have to be ready for it. It would have been fun to do an extra week here or so. But it is what it is. It's fun.
Q: How is the information sharing? Are your setups totally different or can you share some information? Ana, what is the situation for Indianapolis, a couple races after Indy?
ANA BEATRIZ: First, communication has been pretty good. It's an open book out there. Setup-wise and drivers-wise, we always talking and sharing ideas. That's great. Regarding the future, I think that was a fantastic opportunity for me to be in a team like Andretti. Of course, we'll be working to do more races. We don't know yet, but that's where the focus is 2013. We are already working on this.
Q: For anybody. With the car, obviously we've seen a lot of race trim sessions going on this week. What do you expect in the race? Is it going to be a lot of cars staying together in the draft, tire fall-off? How do you expect a run to go?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: I think the race is going to be a lot of fun. I think it's going to be a lot of good-handling cars in the beginning of stints, fuel run, when the tires are new. Then I think you'll see the handling and balances come halfway to three-quarters of the way. I think that's where you'll see the race contenders shining at that point. These cars do draft a lot more than they have in the past. You're going to be pulled up into the mix, which I think is going to create a better race in a lot of ways. I still think there's going to be some fall-off there. We've seen watching in practice; there's quite a few guys in there that can run when the tires are good, but when the tires fall off, it's getting a little hairy for them. So far we've made our race cars really good on old tires.
Q: Pretty much every day this week, we've had 30-plus cars out there. It's been difficult to get any single car out there in clean air. How do you need to do what you need to do in clean air to get a decent qualifying setup?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It's discipline. If you have to sit in the car for a half-hour before you go out, you have to do the best you can to get a true read. You can go out trimmed out and try to put out a big-time, but not me (laughter). To get a true read, obviously you have to be alone, so you just do the best you can. That's all.
Q: James, back to the question of the draft. The cars close very quickly. Will that change now with the new boost? Will you close even faster?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: It's a bit irrelevant because we're not going to have that boost on Race Day. Today everybody's focus is to qualifying with the more boost, Pole Day coming up. So I think it will be easier to get a little bit of clear track space. You're not going to see guys out there purposely running in packs for 30 laps. You're going to see guys going out there for four laps and parking it. In terms of how the cars will race with the extra boost, it's not really a factor. As Ryan was saying, the draft is much bigger, especially the last sort of like five, six car lengths, it's like it gets an afterburner and really sucks you up, but lures you into a sense of ‘I don't have quite enough to make a move.’ Then you get extra boost; it's last-minute dive-out passes on (Turns) 1 and 3 that we're going to have to look for on Race Day.
Q: Ryan, does that scare you with the drivers whose tires drop off?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: Yeah, well, in order to get that moment that James is talking about where the car really sucks up, you have to somewhat be on the throttle on the corner following them. You have to have a good run to the corner. You can't be pedaling it through there, or you'll drop back. There's a bigger penalty for a lift in traffic. You'll drop back further. There's ups and downs. They're different angles to look at it. I think it's going to be a real exciting race. I think we're in for something that we haven't seen in a while. There's going to be a lot of passing here at Indy.
Q: Sebastian, you're going to be a busy guy this weekend. What is that going to be like?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: It's going to be exciting, for sure. Racing day, 600 miles of Indianapolis. This is something we're trying to keep focused because for sure we don't want to get both races involved with each other. We want the Freedom 100 to be separate, well-made project, as well as the Indy 500. The Freedom 100 is important to me knowing that I'm leading the Indy Lights championship. I need the points, need to focus on getting the points, focusing on the big screen, which is the championship at this point. In the Indy 500, we've been doing a great job, expectations go high. But you need to keep your feet in the ground, understanding that it is a unique opportunity to be with AFS Racing and Andretti Autosport. It's a unique opportunity to enjoy and try to take advantage of this great opportunity and sit in a good way.
Q: There's a lot of talk about the switch to Honda with their boost situation. Do you still feel underpowered?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: I don't think we've ever been underpowered. We've had four poles and four wins. We've been quick on our own, quick if in the pack. We can't change other people's programs. We're working harder than ever to stay on top because that's where we've been.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much for coming in. We really appreciate it.