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Tristan Vautier lands seat with Sam Schmidt

“I was amazed at the team's ability to work with me and be patient in Sebring because I have so much to learn,” said Vautier. “They gave me the tools I needed to be fast and coached me along the way. At this high level it's great to have engineers who not only set up the car but also still coach and teach the drivers.”

Vautier will have veteran Allen McDonald as his race engineer for his maiden season in the IndyCar Series. As a result of winning the 2012 Firestone Indy Lights title, he brings with him a $1 million scholarship to make the full season deal possible, with Vautier admitting that the scholarship was "the reason I came to the USA" in the first place.

"I was beginning to struggle with budgets and was wondering how I would be able to get through the ranks in Europe," he explained. "I started seeing these drivers stepping up because of the Mazda Road to Indy scholarship and at the end of '09 I felt I had to try something else [so] I flew to Sebring to do a test with Anderson Racing.

"I knew if I could accomplish this first objective to win Star Mazda I'd get my chance in Indy Lights, and now I have a scholarship to IndyCar. It's a young but amazing program that you don't find anywhere else," he enthused. "I loved it and stayed to do the season, because I knew if I would win I would get the scholarship."

Vautier follows in the footsteps of 2011 Firestone Indy Lights champion Josef Newgarden, who moved up to the IZOD IndyCar Series last year with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. Meanwhile, the newly-crowned 2012 Star Mazda champion Jack Hawksworth is optimistic of following Vautier's successful road to IndyCar in coming seasons.

By contrast, F1 veteran Rubens Barrichello's hopes of returning to IndyCar competition in 2013 - with SPM looking a likely berth at one point - were dashed over a lack of available sponsorship.




Related Pictures

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23-24 March, 2012, St Petersburg, Florida USA. Tristan Vautier holds up the Sunoco Winner`s flag on the podium after winning the Indy Lights race at St Petersburg. (c) 2012, Phillip Abbott (Photo Credit: INDYCAR/LAT USA)
22 March, 2012, St. Petersburg, Florida, USA. Tristan Vautier. (c) 2012, Michael L. Levitt. (Photo Credit: INDYCAR/LAT USA)
Sam Schmidt Motorsports` Tristan Vautier and Simon Pagenaud at Sebring International Raceway in December 2012. (Photo Credit: J. Hendrick for IndyCar Nedia)
Simon Pagenaud and Tony Kanaan enter Turn 7 during practice for Race 1 of the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit at Belle Isle Park (Photo by: Bret Kelley for IndyCar Media)
Tristan Vautier in his car at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (Photo by: Dana Garrett for IndyCar Media)
Tristan Vautier at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (Photo by: Dana Garrett for IndyCar Media)
Tristan Vautier at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (Photo by: Dana Garrett for IndyCar Media)
Tristan Vautier and Jack Hawksworth on track on Carb Day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Friday May 22 2015. (Photo by: Jim Haines for IndyCar Media)
Ryan Briscoe steps into the #5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsport Honda in place of the injured James Hinchcliffe. Indianapolis Motor Speedway, May 21 2015. (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Ryan Briscoe steps into the #5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsport Honda in place of the injured James Hinchcliffe. Indianapolis Motor Speedway, May 21 2015. (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Ryan Briscoe steps into the #5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsport Honda in place of the injured James Hinchcliffe. Indianapolis Motor Speedway, May 21 2015. (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Ryan Briscoe steps into the #5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsport Honda in place of the injured James Hinchcliffe. Indianapolis Motor Speedway, May 21 2015. (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Simon Pagenaud, driver of the #22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, qualifies third fastest Sunday, May 17, 2015, and will start on the outside of the front row for the Verizon IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Pagenaud will be joined in the front row by by polestar Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and Will Power, driver of the #1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet who qualified second fastest for the May 24 race. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, qualifies second-fastest Sunday, May 17, 2015, and will start in the middle of the front row for the Verizon IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Power will be joined in the front row by pole sitter Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet and Simon Pagenaud, driver of the #22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet  who qualified third for the May 24 race. (Photo by Scott R. LePage/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates after qualifying fastest Sunday, May 17, 2015, winning the pole for the Verizon IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Dixon will be joined in the front row by Will Power, driver of the #1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet who qualified second fastest, and Simon Pagenaud, driver of the #22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet  who qualified third for the May 24 race. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, qualifies fastest Sunday, May 17, 2015, winning the pole for the Verizon IndyCar Series Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Dixon will be joined in the front row by Will Power, driver of the #1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet who qualified second fastest, and Simon Pagenaud, driver of the #22 Avaya Team Penske Chevrolet  who qualified third for the May 24 race. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Simon Pagenaud on track in the Penske #22 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during practice on Friday May 15 2015. (Photo by: Mike Harding for IndyCar Media)
Simon Pagenaud waits in the Penske #22 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway during practice on Friday May 15 2015. (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)

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