Helio Castroneves insists that he would be ready to jump back into the cockpit of his #3 Team Penske entry at any point should the outcome of his pending tax evasion trial go in his favour.
The Brazilian - a Penske veteran of nine seasons - is facing charges that could see him wind up doing a spell behind bars, but remains hopeful that he will be on the grid this season, even if not necessarily for the opening round in St Petersburg. Castroneves' court appearance is slated for 2 March, with the season-opener just a month later.
In order to cover any possible eventuality, and to give Castroneves the chance to focus on the case rather than be distracted by on-track commitments, Penske has drafted in Will Power to partner fellow Australian Ryan Briscoe for pre-season testing, with a view to him racing the #3 should its previous incumbent be sent down.
Despite being forced to face the prospect of seeing someone else driving his car, however, Castroneves remains his usual optimistic self.
"No question, it's a little bit strange to be in this situation," the two-time Indianapolis 500 winner admitted, "but one thing I have to say, Roger [Penske] and [team president] Tim Cindric, they back me up all the way. It's pretty good to have friends like that, first of all, and a good organisation behind you like that, as well.
"We're all together. They say the tough times are when you find real friends. I've been very fortunate to see a lot of people responding, being supportive. You guys that know me, obviously I love racing. That's what I love to do. I guess, unfortunately, when you go through that in life, it's just to make sure that you're strong enough. The only thing in my mind right now is to get these things over and back to the race car.
"My life, it's definitely about racing. The way I end up with Team Penske is also a very difficult spot, but I feel very confident the whole thing is going to be over. I can't wait for this thing to be over, for me to be back in the race car, do what I love most, which is racing."
Castroneves confirmed that he has continued to prepare for the season as he would any other, and expected to be ready to jump back into the #3 at short notice once the outcome of his case is known.
"Obviously I've been working out, making sure that I'll be as fit as I can and as prepared as I can," he noted, "I try to educate myself on what's going on [with the case] but, clearly, it's a language that I'm not familiar with. Even in Portuguese, I wouldn't be able to understand it either.