Simon Pagenaud was the focus of a special press conference at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, at which he unveiled a special race helmet for the Indy 500 inspired by the racing colours and helmet design of three-time F1 world champion Ayrton Senna.

"Ayrton Senna has been my lifelong hero," said Pagenaud, who will auction off the helmet after the race to benefit the Ayrton Senna Institute, which promotes children's literacy efforts in Brazil. "Senna has been the inspiration for my entire life, whether I'm in a race car or not

"He was my hero as a child, my role model as a teenager and my example as a human and a race car driver.

"Even though I never met him, I inspired my whole life after him, understanding what it was all about, what he was thinking, his approach to racing - focused and dedicated - and that strength he had about concentrating," he added. "It was just understanding what he was saying that led me to understanding myself.

"To me, this is a way to continue his legacy somehow and this is the only way I could find to do something and show my passion for what he did," said the Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports driver. "I started thinking about [the helmet] about two months ago."

Pagenaud was joined at the press conference by three compatriots of Senna: three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, 2003 Indy 500 winner Gil de Ferran, and last year's winner Tony Kanaan, who shared their memories of the great driver who died in an accident at Imola in 1994.

"I have memories of the first time I met Ayrton, and the influence he has on me," said Castronves. "He was the first driver I heard who talked about physical conditioning and concentration. Really special to me was what he did for Brazil. Here, 20 years after his passing, he is revered as a hero, still remembered for carting the Brazilian flag around the race course."

"He elevated the sport, which is one of the reasons he stands out," offered de Ferran. "He did much for Brazil, for the kids in Brazil and for the world in general. He was an athlete the people could recognize. He inspired a whole generation. His helmet, the one we have here today, is something very personal."

"I owe a lot to Ayrton for where I am today," added Kanaan. "When I was young and just getting onto racing, I remember before the last race in the contract I had, Ayrton told me he would help me any way he could. He told my car owner that he would be smart to keep me. And he did.

"Ayrton was a hero to almost everyone in Brazil and I was amazed at how he was received all over the world," Kanaan continued. "It was not just about what he had done, but more about what it had led to. We have won 500s and we're still not as great as he was."

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