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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 crosses the line at Fontana during practice for the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Simon Pagenaud and Ryan Briscoe go wheel-to-wheel during the Open Test at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Simon Pagenaud preps on pit lane prior to the evening Open Test session at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Ryan Hunter-Reay, Scott Dixon and Simon Pagenaud on the podium after the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Simon Pagenaud sits on pit lane prior to the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma at Sonoma Raceway (Photo by: John Cote for IndyCar Media)
Simon Pagenaud enters Turn 4 during practice for the Honda Indy Toronto (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Simon Pagenaud in action (Photo by: Eric Anderson for IndyCar Media)
Simon Pagenaud in action (Photo by: Shawn Gritzmacher for IndyCar Media)
Simon Pagenaud celebrates victory in the second race of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston doubleheader. (Photo by: Richard Dowdy for IndyCar Media)
Simon Pagenaud celebrates victory in the second race of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston doubleheader. (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Simon Pagenaud celebrates victory in the second race of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston doubleheader. (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Simon Pagenaud celebrates victory in the second race of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston doubleheader. (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves lead into turn 1 at the start of the first race of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston doubleheader. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Simon Pagenaud celebrates winning pole position for race 1 of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston doubleheader. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Simon Pagenaud celebrates winning pole position for race 1 of the Shell and Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston doubleheader. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)

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