chevy racing–indycar–grand prix indianapolis–arrow mclaren sp drivers

CHEVROLET RACING NTT INDYCAR SERIESGMR GRAND PRIXINDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEEDWAYINDIANAPOLIS, INDIANATEAM CHEVY DRIVER ZOOM CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPTARROW MCLAREN SP DRIVERS PRE-INDIANAPOLIS GP QUOTESMAY 12, 2021 ARROW MCLAREN SP DRIVERS PATO O’WARD, FELIX ROSENQVIST AND JUAN PABLO MONTOYA, ALONG WITH ARROW MCLAREN SP PRESDIENT TAYLOR KIEL met with media to discuss upcoming NTT INDYCAR SERIES race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course: Felix, what learnings did you take out of the two races at Texas Motor Speedway, and how prepared are you to head to Indianapolis for the month of May?  FELIX ROSENQVIST: We can be that fast on a super speedway. Maybe not all of it translates to the 500, but I’m sure of it is going to do that. I think personally as well, I’ve felt better than I’ve ever done on an oval. I think that’s kind of a good step. I really started to learn what I need from the car, and I think my engineer Blair (Perschbacher) and all the others on the No. 7 (Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet) will start to understand what I need to feel comfortable.  As I said, the points haven’t come, which is a shame because we have had some really good potential in at least three of these four rounds we have had so far. That’s how it is. We have a good chance to strike back here in these two, and there’s double points at the 500, so that’s encouraging. You just have to keep fighting and it should be good. We’ll go now to Pato. First-time race winner at the last race in Texas. Pato, how do you build off that success you had in Texas, especially given that you’re second in the championship right now? Where does that put your priorities heading into the Indy GP and also the rest of the month of May? PATO O’WARD: Thank you. Yeah, I think we are rolling into the month of May with some great momentum. We want to keep it going. Especially leading into the 500 and the rest of the season. There’s a long season still ahead; many races and many opportunities to be able to execute and get some more results in the bag. I think the approach will be the same as any other weekend that we’ve been to, trying to execute come qualifying and keep our nose clean during the race, have a quick race car. That should really put us in contention for a podium or a win. That is the goal for this weekend, the same as it’s been for every single weekend since 2020. Yeah, I am looking forward to it. Thanks, Pato. Now we’ll go to the newest member of Arrow McLaren SP, Juan Pablo Montoya. Juan Pablo, this is going to be your first IndyCar race since 2017. You’ve obviously been racing other cars since then, but how do you prepare yourself for your first race in an IndyCar in almost four years? JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Well, I think first of all try not to freak out (laughter)! I think we got a decent test in Laguna (Seca), and learned and understood a lot of what I needed out of the car, and got it in the swing of things. The two days at Indy in the oval were really nice to get everyone together. We need to understand the priority of running the road course, apart from having a really good result, is working well with the engineers and everyone on the team.  If everyone is a new group of people, and they’re really good people, and to get them bonding together is really important. And understand what I need out of the car. It’s such a compact schedule, and I think it’ll be good. It could be frustrating; there could be anger moments, and there could be good moments. But I am looking forward to it. I am really working hard to prepare myself for it. And we’ll see what it brings. We had a session in the simulator last week, and the baseline was pretty good and the pace seemed pretty good. So I’m looking forward to it. One of the curveballs is the red tires. Learning to get the most out of it will be really hard, but at least we’ll get a set out of it in practice. Back in the day, we didn’t use to get them. Thanks, Juan Pablo. Taylor, I’ll piggyback a bit off that and ask you a follow-up question. What a lot of people may not realize is our third crew at Indianapolis, the No. 86, are all full-time employees of Arrow McLaren SP. How important is it to have the Indianapolis GP to prepare those guys, who aren’t normally a race weekend crew but are important to the team to get ready for the Indy 500? JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I think one of the most important things there is to understand that they are full-time employees, but work different jobs. Like Craig (Hampson), my engineer, he’s not running a car normally. He’s looking after everybody. I think in a way it’s good because there’s a lot of experience. There’s a couple young guys working on my team that came from England as well. I’m really excited. I think we have a great group of people, very experienced mechanics, and everyone is pumped up about it. With Pato winning the last race, it shows the potential of the car at Indy, so now you have to execute. If we screw up, we have to make sure we screw up in the Indy GP and not in the big race! Taylor, do you want to follow up on that? TAYLOR KIEL: I think Juan covered it pretty well. That’s why we made the choice to run the road course race was to get some more experience with that group. It’s the only thing that separates them from Pato and Felix’s cars, they just did it a week ago. It’s important where we are at an advantage over the other one-off cars, and that we’re doing that. That’s what it’s about, like Juan said, to put ourselves in the best position for the 500. That’s what it is.  Pato, what’s life been like for you now that you are an IndyCar winner? PATO O’WARD: It’s the same, now with the title of having one win under my belt. It’s all the same. The approach to everything is the same. We’re the same people, same persons, nothing has changed. We just have had a taste of what a win feels like and now we want more of that! It’d be great to rack up some more if we can. For all three of you, the IndyCar races on the IMS road course have been kind of pedestrian, but the Friday race last October was one of the best road races they have had there. What’s the reason why that particular race was so good last year, when others have been about how the strategy falls? PATO O’WARD: I’ll take it first. I think in my opinion it is about the amount of laps (85) opened up it for either a two-stop fuel save or a three-stopper. Whenever you take away some laps, and force everyone to do a two-stop, is when things get boring I guess. So I feel like, this year is the same amount of laps (85) that road race you mentioned was good. I think it’ll be a good mix this weekend.  FELIX ROSENQVIST: I think it’s also depending on weather, tires and how they operate together. I think INDYCAR is doing a good job in experimenting in that a bit, with race length. Sometimes you don’t know how it’ll play out. One day the red tires are degrading, the next they’re good for a whole stint. We may have a hard time figuring out what it’ll be, even with our best predictions. That’s part of the fun, you know? Sometimes it’ll be an awesome race, and others it’ll be completely different than what you expect. I’m sure we’ll be surprised with some this weekend as well. JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I’ve watched the races, but as Felix said and as Pato said, it depends on strategy, when the cautions come out, and if people save fuel. If they do that it is normally a pretty quiet race. Everybody tries to stay in line, draft, save fuel and go as far as they can. It becomes who can go the furthest. When you’re not racing hard, versus when you get cautions, the pack is packed up, the cautions mix the pack. It’s frustrating sometimes, because you could be on the right strategy leading the race, and someone tries a different strategy and the caution comes out and you can come out of the pits 10th when you were leading and you finish 10th. And you don’t even know why? But that’s the nature of IndyCar. In a way it’s their problem not mine, I’m just a one-off so I want to run as good as I can this week and see what we can bring. Taylor, reflecting at Pato’s win at Texas, just being able to put into words what it means for Arrow McLaren SP, it really is a sign of what the whole program is based on. It’s about showcasing their talent of young drivers. JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Thank you for the young (laughter)! TAYLOR KIEL: Yeah, I think there’s a few things to that. Certainly there is the young talent piece. That’s a small part of it. The other thing is putting the best people in the best positions to take advantage of what we’re building as a team. We have that with Pato and Felix and certainly Juan. But this has been a long journey. I think at a certain point you get sick and tired of being a mid-pack team that occasionally sneaks out a victory. When you have a partner lineup like we do, the support from ownership and everyone to take advantage of it, it’s a great position. It requires thoughtful planning and organization. That’s what we have been able to do slowly over time, and now we are starting to reap those rewards.  Texas is certainly Texas. That’s it. We’re onto the Indy GP, then onto the Indy 500, then a bunch of races after that. But now we have an organization that knows how to win. From an importance perspective, it’s very important. But it’s certainly not the end of the journey. It’s not putting our feet on the desk and saying, we’ve won Texas, we made it. We still have a long way to go. We’ll see shortly how far we’ve come. For Juan Pablo, during the Indy 500 test-, you did an interview (with NBC Sports) about you’d heard from Arrow McLaren SP about running Indy and Roger Penske said no. Could you elaborate, and how hard did you push to do this earlier? JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Well, with Roger, when it’s no, it’s no. Zak (Brown) called me the last two years and I said to him, ‘Well, I don’t think they’re going to let me. If you want to call him, call him, but I’m pretty sure the answer’s going to be no.’ And he called 10 minutes later and he said, ‘Yeah, no, you’re not running!’ So this year, now that I’m running a different program, I talked with Zak and I thought the challenge was exciting, and as everyone is saying, Taylor mentioned they’re going in the right direction.  The timing is very good and the potential to run the Indy 500 is perfect. From the timing point of view, working with Craig and the experience he has, and how open-minded he is, the potential is huge. It’s been fun, because I’ve worked with people before and you show up and they go, ‘Well, this is the way we need to run it.’ Craig is very open-minded, and has a lot of experience. So we can work together where I say, ‘Hey I want this out of the car, I don’t like this,’ and he’s got a lot of previous laps and experience where he can go, ‘Oh, I understand what you mean.’ So it’s very easy to communicate and we seem to find direction really quickly.  I’m very stubborn when I don’t like something; I really don’t like it. And we’ve been there already. And we laugh about it. I told him before the first test, ‘There’s a few things especially in the Indy oval, if I don’t like it, or feel comfortable, I’m not even gonna try it.’ Because normally, that’s when you make a mistake and end up having a shunt for no reason, with something you wouldn’t even think about racing. You seem very excited to be back at Indianapolis and the Indy 500. How much did you miss it and were you surprised by how much you missed it? JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Honestly, I loved the sports car program, and I really enjoyed endurance racing. Still working with Penske was a lot of fun. All that time was cool. I think this opportunity was unreal, to be honest with you. In my mind, I never thought I’d run Indy again. Because Roger would never let me at the time. I’m 45, whether you like it or not. I believe I still can perform. And I’ll give you an example. We’re in Spa, running WEC (World Endurance Championship). I was running hard, but I feel like I’m miles off the pace. And we qualify like ninth in (LMP2) class, and I drove from ninth to third, and I passed people on the brakes, and I out-brake and outsmart people. It was really good. Oh, I can still do this! Felix, you’re going back to a track where you’ve had pace before. Do you think you can get one with the AMSP car here?FELIX ROSENQVIST: Yeah for sure, I’ve been quick here before. I wouldn’t say it’s a track I like more than others, but I had a pole here my rookie season which was fun. I think it’s more what we’ve done in the background, developing the setup, what Juan talked about. I spent a lot of time with Craig and my engineer (Blair) to build a package I think will work better than Barber and St. Pete. It’ll be exciting to see what we come up with, because I definitely think it’ll be a bit of a difference. It’s less depending on the track. When we find the sweet spot of where we want to be, I think it’ll be from every track for the rest of the year. We saw that in Texas with something I liked. That’s the direction we’re going, and working to strike back at the GP after a tough first four races. Juan, I noticed you’ve had Sebastian (Montoya) with you in Europe. What is it like having him as a driver around? I know he’s been around as a son, but now he’s a driver. Is it fun to have someone who now understands the driving side with you?  JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Yeah I think it’s exciting. We had a really good conversation with me after Spa. He’s been with me, getting ready for his new season. He has his first race of the year this weekend here in Italian F4.  In the car, something you don’t understand is how good you are. He’s got crazy talent and crazy speed, but he’s like, ‘I don’t know.’ Honestly, you see how good I am and he’s like, ‘Yeah, you’re so good,’ and I’m like, ‘I still believe you can kick my rear end every day.’ So imagine how good you are. And he’s like, ‘Really?’ He needs a little bit of confidence and needs to learn a lot. He’s young, you know what I mean? He turned 16 last month. It’s crazy the potential he has. Once we get to cars with a little more downforce and he’s not sliding around like the F4, he really hates that car. But he needed the experience. We did a test in Barcelona in Euro F3, and I think he was the quickest guy of the week. We ran the first two days, and then the track gets better. Then the team is like, ‘Oh my god, how quick is this guy?’ And I’m like, ‘I know,’ but he doesn’t! Juan, what do you see of ‘younger you’ in time you’ve spent with Pato and Felix so far?  JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I think they’re very different driving styles, both of them. Pato’s the guy that you put the wheels backwards, and he’ll still make a good lap time! And you don’t know how, but he does, and that’s great for him. But he needs to, and we’ve spoke about it, he needs to learn a bit more about what he needs for the long runs. His potential is unreal.  Felix’s, I think his driving style is a lot more similar to mine. You want a car that doesn’t want to kill you! I think that’s been the biggest thing. For Felix, when I got in and I was like, ‘I can’t drive this!’ He’s like, ‘I’m glad I’m not the only one!’ (laughter) It’s been really good. We work to make a much friendlier car and much more consistent in a race, because if they can build a car that’s consistent, the results will be much more often in the front. And then Pato and Felix, your thoughts on what you can take from Juan going into this month? PATO O’WARD: For me it’s just so much experience, and a lot of input in areas where I don’t know how to explain what I need from the car. Especially in manufacturer stuff like downshifting, seeing if you have a certain issue in the downshift, seeing where in the downshift it is, and just understanding more about the car. I don’t really know how to explain it, but I think you can tell the experience he has when he explains things. I’m trying to learn as much as I can, and even without spending weekends together, with the Laguna test and the Indy test, I have just comprehended a little bit more about what things do. That helps me tell my engineers more about what I need, and that’s been a win-win situation. Like I said, in my career, I’ve been so used to driving what they give me, so I’m not a big whiner. But I need to whine more, because I think we can extract a lot more when it’s easier to drive. Like Juan Pablo said, it doesn’t want to kill you, I guess! FELIX ROSENQVIST: I agree with Pato. I’m kind of in the middle between Pato and Juan Pablo in my career. I have had the opportunity to work with a lot of experienced drivers, like Nick Heidfeld, Scott Dixon, and Gary Paffett when I was in DTM. When you have a teammate that has done so much, as Juan Pablo has done, you realize the reason he’s good is because he knows what he wants and knows how to get it. Everyone understands that’s the way it has to be. Like Pato said, I got so far in my career by jumping in driving whatever I had. I didn’t complain about it. I told my engineers what I wanted, and for me it was very clear, when I raced with Scott and now with Juan Pablo, if you want to race for championships that’s where you need to be to make the difference. Everyone has the talent. There’s huge talent in IndyCar in the whole field. Those details are where you can make your life easier. If it’s easier for you, and make the car do more work for you, that’ll be a different kind of race.  Pato, so you’ve been with the Arrow McLaren SP team since the beginning. How has your confidence and trust grown, and how does that help build momentum for the Indy 500 and championship? PATO O’WARD: I think just having a full year under our belt is what has given us a bit more efficiency in a weekend, knowing what I want. There’s barely any running in the weekend from session to session, so it’s important to be efficient with changes and know what you want to go in the right direction. That’s helped us. But I don’t necessarily think it’s so much different to last year. This year we are showing what we had last year. We just didn’t quite execute. The goal has been, don’t screw up. If you don’t screw up, you’ll win races. For me, going into the 500, it’s a race where if you’ve never done one before, there’s no way you can prepare yourself for that. Ever. You just can’t. I feel like once you do it a year, you’ll understand what to expect, for traffic running and having a good car to compete at the front and win. Juan, when you’re going from series to series, you’re going through different cars. What’s the most difficult thing to adjust to? JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I think the hardest thing is adapting to the tires, in the feel of what the tire wants. Every car is different and every manufacturer builds them different. So when I run here, we’re with Firestone. In Europe, we’re with Goodyear, and in IMSA we’re with Michelin. So you go from the spectrum of the Michelins, which are super fast with tons of grip, while the Goodyears are the P2 cars, they’re a little more intermediate –  a little harder and more difficult to drive – and it is what it is. You learn to make the most out of it. But it’s so good because it keeps you on your toes the whole time. The other thing that’s hard is, here, it’s good because it’s my car with my engineer and group of people. When I run in IMSA, I’m the third guy. So I don’t even have a voice or a vote. I say what’s happening, but I’m just the filler guy.  In WEC, we have Ben (Hanley), who’s the younger guy, myself, and then we have the gentleman in the car. It’s a different program. There we need to make the car drive really good, and we work a lot on the gentleman, Henrik (Hedman), to get the best out of him. If we make the car two tenths quicker for us, that’s great, but if we can make Henrik go two seconds a lap quicker, that’s a bigger improvement than anything else. It’s a different challenge, everything is, but as Pato said before it makes experience even better. It makes me look at things in a different way and makes things much simpler. Taylor, you have two Latin American drivers, how important is that for the team for the region. TAYLOR KIEL: I think they could be from Mars, right? But it’s about the best drivers available. Pato and Juan, their Latin heritage brings them together. But as a group, I’m focused on putting the two best drivers in the car regardless of age, race, ethnicity, gender, it doesn’t really matter to us. Bringing Juan and Pato together is the best move for our team. They’ve proven that, and we’re excited to get going. Juan, how do you adapt your driving style to IndyCar after being most recently in WEC? JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I think the hardest thing there is remembering what I want from an IndyCar on a speedway. It’s all about how fast can you go. The more comfortable you are, the quicker you’re going to be. For Pato, what I want may be completely different. Maybe he goes, oh, the thing can’t turn. Maybe he’s more comfortable with the car stepping out. For me, if the car is uncomfortable on the entry, I’m going to keep my foot on the brake until I feel I can release it and know the car isn’t going to snap out on me. Where Pato may trust the car a little different, and rotate. If you give the car more understeer, I may be able to turn it more to be more aggressive with my hands. You may make it turn more. You have to know what you need. The hard thing is we only have two sessions, maybe two or three runs each, and two, three, four, five laps and you’re done. So we’ll see what happens.  I’d talked to Sebastian (Montoya) and he said he might want run at Daytona next year (2022 Rolex 24 At Daytona). What are your thoughts?  JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: (Laughter). I don’t want to think about that yet! It’s too early to be honest. We need to see where I’m going to run next year. If an opportunity to run in a car together with him came up that would be amazing. I think it’d be great, he’d learn a lot if we are in the same car. He’d have to be more flexible in the way drive and brake. In Europe, they tell you, this is the way you need to brake, this is the way you need to turn. And when you’re young, that’s what you do, and you do that to make lap time. When you learn to drive all the cars I drive, the best way to describe it is I drive depends on what the car needs, so I turn and brake a different way. Different cars have different cornering ways. I don’t have a set driving style, but I do have my preferences.  Taylor, you’ve been part of Robert Wickens’ journey in the team. What’s your reflection on him getting in a car last week, and the feeling in the team around that?  TAYLOR KIEL: I thought it was great. Since day one, we’ve been behind Robbie in any number of ways. Certainly, it’s been his main ambition to get back in a race car. I think our support for him both away from the racetrack, at track, and in any endeavor he wants to do has always been there. So when an opportunity came to hop in a car, good on you, go for it. I was thrilled to see him back out there. I spoke with him afterwards, and he had a blast, but he was already thinking ‘Man, can we do this? How can we do that?’ We’re going to go to the drawing board and help him out any way that we can to see if we can help realize his new dream, which is getting back into a race car. We’re certainly supportive and proud of Robbie for what he’s put in. We’re excited to see where the journey goes and how we can be a part of it. For Pato, how much momentum does the win give you into Indy and the 500?  PATO O’WARD: I think it’s great momentum, the best we can carry into the month. The approach is the same. We want to continue fighting at the front. The most points we extract out of the GP, the better it will be for the 500 and so forth for the rest of the season. How beneficial is it to have Juan Pablo for the GP and the 500? PATO O’WARD: It’s good. He has loads of experience. The guy knows what he wants from a race car. I think we can learn a lot from him in trying to extract the most we need from our cars. FELIX ROSENQVIST: I’d agree with Pato. It’s also good for us to have a third source of data. We’re a team that is growing, and don’t have a lot of time to try new things with limited track time on a weekend and in winter testing. There’s not a lot of running. It matches well with our plans from an engineering point of view to run a third car, try different stuff. Juan Pablo is a huge input source. He’ll tell you what he wants. If he doesn’t get it, he’ll keep asking for it. It’s pretty exciting for all of us. It changes the dynamic in the team for the better. Taylor, by being Pato’s strategist, how has this process of building confidence and chemistry occurred race-by-race? TAYLOR KIEL: It’s been a process, no doubt, as any relationship is in our lives. But it’s also super critical to off-track success. Understanding how to read body language, tone of voice, and being involved in the process from start-to-finish, to be close to the engineering group, driver group, mechanics, you can paint a clearer picture of what’s going on. That’s not limited to just strategy on race day. To me it’s a big part of building the team and everyone being on the same page. The race day piece takes care of itself. Although we’re growing and on a growth trajectory, we do try to stay small in a few aspects. Those are communication within the team, interpersonal communication with myself, management, drivers, and always trying to keep our finger on the pulse. When you do that on a day-in, day-out basis, with quick decisions or otherwise, you take in the human element. If you look across the paddock, those teams with a massive amount of success like Scott (Dixon) or Josef (Newgarden) just to name a couple, those have longtime people in their ear, on their timing stand both with Mike (Hull) and Tim (Cindric). Continuity is big. I think the relationship piece is big. It’s a daily effort. How do you build it day-by-day? That’s what I’ve tried with Pato, and also Felix and Billy (Vincent) have a good relationship as well. It takes time, but the rewards can be reaped on the back side as well.