10 May 2014
Saavedra thrilled after winning maiden pole
Colombia's Sebastian Saavedra was delighted to gain his first pole in the Verizon IndyCar Series, the fourth different polesitter in 2014 so far.
No one would have predicted Sebastian Saavedra would be on pole position for the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis on Saturday - not even the 23-year-old Colombian himself.
"It's huge, a great way to start the month of May," said Saavedra after the rain-hit qualifying session. "I think we've been pushing ourselves, looking to get this opportunity. When we saw that there was a great opportunity, we took it. Very proud."
While that puts him in the ideal starting position for Saturday afternoon's race, it also puts him right in the crosshairs of 24 other drivers who will be eager to make the most of Saavedra's lack of experience in starting at the front - his previous best qualifying effort on a road/street circuit was ninth in the first two events of 2013.
"To be honest, I feel old - I'm 23 years old, but I've been here already for three years," he insisted. "Every day you're learning something different, every corner you're learning something different. But at this time it's not the time to try different things. It's time to keep things the same way, focus on the start.
"It's going to be huge, whoever gets a good jump or not," he added. "It's a long straight. Whatever happens with the weather conditions and the wind direction, it's going to be huge as well."
Saavedra is the fourth different pole sitter in as many races this season, and while the surprise pole was partly the result of the inclement weather making for a chaotic qualifying session, Saavedra insisted that clinching pole position hadn't come out of the blue but was instead the result of ongoing improvements in the KV-AFS Racing team's performance over the past few months.
"We've been getting closer to a couple things," he pointed out. "We've been leading laps and stuff like that. Strategies or things like that haven't worked out. But definitely this is a point that makes you get addicted to more. You just want more. I think this is a great start for that to happen. I think we have something. We're building something from scratch. The long relationship that we're building, it's hopefully soon to be shown."
The combination of the wet weather and race helmet had temporarily destroyed Saavedra's trademark mane of spiky hair, but the driver insisted that there was far more to him than his eye-catching hair style as winning pole position on Friday had proven.
"Everybody will know me by my hair, which is completely destroyed by the hat, but I'm keeping the sponsors happy," he said. "At the end, you'll always see a smile on my face, somebody to have a quick chat. At the end when I put my helmet on, here we are.
Asked to give a self description, Saavedra offered: "A guy who is pushing hard, pushing his limits. Not only putting into play everything he's been learning in the past years, but a driver that will bring a smile or two sometimes."
But for now, Saavedra's attention is firmly on what he has to do on Saturday afternoon when the green flag comes out if he's to stay ahead of the fiercely competitive IndyCar Series field.
"I think the main situation for everybody is trying to put a short enough first gear to make it work off the start, but long enough to make it work on the tight corners," he mused. "That's a big debate because you got to run high first gears to make it through turn 1, turn 12, turn 13.
"That's something I'll get back to the track and start working on right away," he added.
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