IndyCar Series Q&A: Simon Pagenaud on Honda, IMS lights and opening up the rule-book

USA TODAY Sports

Simon Pagenaud discusses a variety of topics in an exclusive interview with SB Nation.

Simon Pagenaud has really come into his own this season, his second in the IZOD IndyCar Series and with Schmidt Peterson Hamilton HP Motorsports. He's also scored his first win this season, in the second Dual in Detroit, and has catapulted to fifth in the championship standings.

While he believes a championship isn't realistic until he can start winning on a consistent basis, the 29-year-old believes he can make the championship podium and build momentum for the future.

Pagenaud has cultivated his long-time relationship with Honda and has set his sights on a victory at Mid-Ohio after finishing third there last season. The Frenchman took some time out his day to talk with SB Nation on Tuesday afternoon and answered a variety of questions about his career and the state of the IndyCar Series.

The full transcript has been provided below:

SB Nation: You've been incredibly consistent and you've finally got that first victory. How would you describe your season thus far?

Simon Pagenaud: I think consistent is definitely a good way to put it. It's great that we got our first win and it's always an honor to be amongst the winners in a season. It's a pretty good sign of what's to come. The team has expanded to two teams this year and we're doing our best to extract the best out of it.

We could do better but it's been pretty satisfying. We're fifth in championships, we're set with Honda and it's pretty satisfying. I wish we could win every weekend but we have a bit to go.

SBN: How has the transition to two teams progressed and how is your relationship with (teammate) Tristan Vautier?

SP: From a team standpoint, there has been a bit of an adjustment. The team's focus last year was centered on me and it was easy to get to the point of any problem we had.

We now have double the information to process and it's a bit hard to manage that information. We don't have much time to sort through it with the schedule. As for Tristan, that relationship has been good. He drives really hard, which can bring some good information.

SBN: Some say he can be a little too aggressive sometimes. Do you try to take a mentor approach or stick to your own game.

SP: I can only focus on myself -- he is aggressive on a lot of levels but he's trying and now his job is also to readjust to that. It's difficult to give advice if he doesn't ask. I think he is very fast and just need time to transform his pace into wins.

SBN: You have a long-standing relationship with Honda and you've been able to watch them go from struggling, especially on ovals this year, to really becoming the more dominant manufacturer at the halfway point of the season. What would you grade them at this point of the season?

SP: I think Honda has been very understanding of their situation and really ramped things up after Indianapolis. It has been tremendous how much they have improved. They've really worked on the (turbo) boost to where we really have the advantage on the street courses, even if Chevrolet has it on the ovals.

And considering that the schedule is made primarily of road and streets, I think they made the right decision.

SBN: Speaking of the turbo, IndyCar has mandated a standard twin turbo for booth Chevrolet and Honda next year. Does that put Honda at a disadvantage having to adopt what Chevrolet has spent two years perfecting?

SP: There's an efficiency to run the single -- there's about a 3-5 percent advantage. It's going to take some time to adjust but I've been really impressed at Honda's ability to tackle challenges. We have the time to work on it and I think we well be alright and I'm excited about it.

I think IndyCar is trying to get things to the same level and Honda will be up to the challenge.

SBN: The decision was made to increase engine parity but IndyCar is planning on opening the rulebook with aero kits and increased ingenuity -- what should the balance be moving forward?

SP: It's only my opinion and I don't know if it will have any impact. I think they should adopt spots car style rules. An open rule book is what I would seek because a technical driver can explore a lot more with his engineers.

We're in a box right now. Racing is tight and the championship is close. It's a balance but I'd like to see different shaped cars too.

SBN: You've been really fast at Mid-Ohio throughout your career. Is this possibly a place where you could get win No. 2?

SP: I really hope so but say that about every track on every weekend. Mid-Ohio suits my driving style. I have good confidence when I arrive. Firestone is bringing new tires and understand how they work will complicate our task.

SBN: There has been a lot of debate about what IMS should do with the renovation money that have coming in -- including the possibility of adding lights. What should they focus on and are you okay with a night race -- be it NASCAR or IndyCar?

SP: Well, I live in Indy and if you were to ask me, I'd want to see races at night. I think it will bring more families and friends and if it does that, it can't be a bad thing. And I'm open to doing anything if it is something the fans want, so I think it's important that we listen to them.

SBN: You're known as a bit of a fitness nut, running, hiking and biking -- do you see a correlation between your commitment to a healthy lifestyle and success on the race track?

SP: For sure. You know, with this new car, you have to press so much harder and we don't have power steering so it's important that I stay physically fit. I kind of got out of the habit a few months ago and I really felt when I was in the middle of the race. It was a sign that I needed to get back to it.

SBN: On a similar note, do you feel a physical difference after the second race of a doubleheader?

SP: Definitely. More so after Toronto than Detroit just because we weren't nearly as good and that track is just so slick and harder to navigate.

SBN: Are you in favor of running the doubleheaders?

SP: Well, it's tricky because I'd rather have more testing. I think we only had the one practice session at Toronto and we weren't necessarily ready for the two races. But if it's something the fans want, I'm okay with it. It gives us a chance to get fans to the track and lets us compete at the same times.

It's just tricky.

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