9.11.2012 (Via Zachary Houghton, indycaradvocate.com) - With Championship Week here, all eyes are on Will Power and Ryan Hunter-Reay as they prepare to battle for the IndyCar title at the MAVTV 500. For his part, Hunter-Reay will also have a little bit extra assistance in his corner. Sebastian Saavedra will once more pilot the #17 AFS Racing/Andretti Autosport machine as his teammate.
This will be the third 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series start for the young Colombian driver, who took an assessing step back to a full-time role in Firestone Indy Lights in addition to his partial IndyCar schedule. Although he was busy with testing at Fontana last week in preparation for his team's big weekend, he took a few minutes to discuss his role with the team, what to expect at the MAVTV 500, his development as a driver, and even his 2013 plans.
Seb, thanks for your time. You've got to be excited. So how long has this deal to race Fontana been in place?
SS: Well, this is just a really exciting additional opportunity given to me, mainly by [AFS Racing owner] Gary Peterson working with Michael Andretti. We were in talks the whole season–we knew we wanted to do at least three races, and it seemed like everything got sorted out after Sonoma. We were excited after a great weekend there, and how we managed to do a good car and good progress for the team. So we decided that we were ready to do Fontana, and there were no second thoughts about it.
You're going to be a teammate of a guy (Hunter-Reay) going for a championship. Will your with the team be any different in terms of setup or participation than it was at say, Indianapolis this year?
SS: We've always been a very open team in that respect. All the drivers and engineers share that information, and all the team engineers are good about sitting down and sharing what needs done. In that sense, it's going to be exactly the same as Indy. We're going to spread the work four ways, which is a big benefit for the team, since it means we get to try and test perhaps twice as more as some of the other teams can. We'll be doing what we can to get that advantage in qualifying, and of course the race.
You've obviously had a solid relationship with AFS Racing and Andretti Autosport; do you see that continuing through to next year?
SS: I sure hope so! [laughs] It's been so great working with them since '09 in arriving from Europe, and they've really become like a family. That's why I don't miss Europe in any way. I really not only enjoy working with my teammates, but the chemistry of getting to build up seasons with the mechanics and all the guys. It's something I hope continues for a long, long time.
Jumping back to the upcoming weekend for a minute: what sort of race do you think we'll see at the MAVTV 500 for the season finale, now that you've had some testing time?
SS: I do believe we'll see…(pauses)…Texas 1.1. It's going to be a very intense, very interesting track. Having the last-chance for the title between Will [Power] and Hunter-Reay should make it even better. It's a place that brings back the ideas of the loose car and needing to really drive the car because of the aero wickedness, and for that I think it's going to be even more intense.
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