2014 IndyCar (Media Day): IndyCar - Sebastian Saavedra
An interview with:
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA, NO. 17 KV AFS RACING CHEVROLET, met with members of the media and discussed joining KV AFS racing, teaming again with Scott Sebastien, looking forward to the season and other topics.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Sebastian Saavedra.
Sebastian, the team has been joined by Gary Peterson. Tell us a little bit about that relationship and how it has transferred now to the IndyCar Series.
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: Well, it's something that has been working for a while now. When I came from Europe in 2009, Gary was pretty much like my second dad, having my first dad present here of course.
We built a very strong relationship. He took me below his wing to develop me inside his driving development program. We come through since then. Last year, of course, having a great sponsor. Dragon Racing was one year we got slightly separated. As soon as the season was over, we wanted to continue the great path we have.
Together with Jimmy Vasser, we got stuck on a flight going on our way to Toronto. We were side-by-side speaking for everything, future plans. Since then everything start to move forward.
Very happy that the KV AFS Racing program has come together. Now to put it in papers and make it a reality is something that makes me very excited and, of course, gives us a lot of positive energy going into the season.
THE MODERATOR: Moving from the IndyCar Series to the Firestone Indy Lights help you?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: Totally. It was not an option. It was that or doing nothing at all. But it came the opportunity to make our stronger with AFS and Gary Peterson, trying not only to prepare, but keep learning. At that time, being 20 years old, I had the opportunity to take chances, and still can.
Now looking back, this is a reality because of those days. Because of the not only trust that the Indy Lights Series had in me, but, of course, the trust of Gary Peterson and Michael Andretti. Everything is just a building structure.
THE MODERATOR: You made your Indianapolis 500 debut when you were 18.
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: I was just turning 19, yes. I think I was the first driver from 1990 to be in the great Indy 500.
I think that first time, maybe being young, it was everything a bit too overwhelming, not understanding where I was in. But the second time everything becomes so clear and so real.
I've been blessed to be able to do this for a while now. This is actually going to be my second full season. I already had a long round with Conquest Racing. It's something that makes me very proud to be around this great series, seeing its development throughout the years.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Sebastian.
Q. Were you getting nervous at all as time was going on that you weren't going to have a ride for this year?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: I think as soon as I knew that Dragon Racing was not going, it was a bit late for sure. I had a three-year contract with Dragon. This was something that give us a little bit of relief, knowing I had somewhere to be in.
When they decided not to go, it was a late call. But fortunately enough, as I said, something was brewing very slowly inside KV and AFS. I was nervous in a way of not being able to race, but how quick could we make it happen. Now that the series has opened up testing a little bit more, I wanted to be part of that.
But at the end I think I knew I was in the hands of great people and that things were going to come through, the question was when. It came right at the time that we were expecting.
Q. The flight you were next to Jimmy, was it to the Toronto race?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: I'm pretty sure it was. We got stuck in New York. We had to change flights and go somewhere else. It was just a big mess.
So we had a good six, seven hours side-by-side. Then we arrived to Toronto. He took me to the track. I had to go to the track to sit fit. He was ready to go to the hotel, but he took me in the worst traffic ever of Toronto.
We had an interesting relationship there. Before it was, Hey, Jimmy, bye, Jimmy. That was as long as our conversations went.
But we learned a lot from each other that day and opened what we are building today.
Q. Do you like working with Bourdais?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: I'm actually being forced to (laughter).
No, we built a really great relationship last year. I think I respect Bourdais a lot and he respects me. I think that's the key to building a great partnership with your teammate.
I think we were able to understand each other and see development-wise that we needed each other to move forward. So I think it makes it a lot easier to have somebody by your side. As Jimmy said, you broke those barriers of who the heck is by my side. Definitely it's a plus to have him on my side, something that is already natural. We already get along very well.
Q. I know Juan is a lot older than you. He's told us in the past he's not that popular amongst Colombian racers. Did you watch him when you were growing up? Was he not someone that you followed?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: He's one of the reasons I'm here. I was only eight years old when he won Indy 500. I was just starting my go-kart career by then.
It surely gave a little bit of, Hey, if you're a Colombian, you can make it happen.
Since then we've had a couple of contacts. I raced in the 500 miles of Brazil. He was there. That was actually the first time we actually get to speak. I was 13. Since then we never spoke again until the Race of the Stars at the end of the year, when we became a lot closer.
I do accept that he's one of those guys that came through on a very important time of my life, thinking, Is this what I want to do for my whole career? And it was, and of course, Roberto Guerrero was another guy that came through on my first Indy 500.
I've been very blessed with very good people around.
Q. What have you learned from Bourdais?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: He's a very technical guy. I think we've learned from each other a lot. We do not have the same driving styles, so that's something that leaves us to develop different paths throughout the course of the weekend. We are pretty much able to see what works, what doesn't, pretty much adapt it to our specific cars.
What I've been able to learn from him is just experience. He has plenty of experience. He just portrays that very easily. It's good when we were sitting with all the engineers for me to say my thoughts, listen to his thoughts, of course complement on those lines.
It's been a good relationship. I've pushed him to different limits. It's good that you don't feel comfortable at all anytime. You always start to push when you have somebody behind you all the time. That's the development; that's how it works.
Q. Just looking at your team, times standing, people looking at data. Will you sit together with Sebastien's engineers to look over the car data at race weekends? Will it be independent with separate engineers?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: That's definitely one of the key points for this season: we're going to be one team sharing completely everything. Very good relationship between our engineers. That's something that helped to see what is the next step in every session that we are out.
I live in Indianapolis. I'm pretty much every day bothering the mechanics and engineers at the shop. That also makes a huge help. But we are meant to be just one.
Q. Sebastien also tested yesterday at Sebring and Sonoma late last week. You mentioned about Bourdais. Have you received any information or had conversations with Vasser on his input, on his style of management, how he relays information to the drivers?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: Jimmy sees Bourdais with a lot of respect, of course. He saw me as the youngster that pretty much still has no limits. So that's great to keep the development and pushing Bourdais.
He has a lot of positive attitude around us. Demanding a lot, of course. That's something we're very welcome to. When he says he wants to see trophies in his trophy case, that's something we've heard a lot, not only in a couple interviews. That's, of course, one of the opportunities that KV AFS Racing is giving us.
We just need to keep focused. We know what we have. We know what we're capable of doing last part of the season last year. We just need to continue that same path, already having knowledge from two sides. Having the great oval package from KV, then having great knowledge from street courses from Dragon Racing. That's what we're trying to combine and make a strong overall performance.
Q. Have you raced against Montoya before?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: Non-professional events.
Q. What do you think it's going to be like?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: I think it's going to be interesting, mostly for Colombia, for our country. Now having three Colombians already signed. I don't see it definitely. When I put on my helmet, I don't care who is by my side. I just focus on the cars, the track.
But it's something definitely very big for history as Colombia has never had three Colombians ever in the same series or ever in the professional level.
It's going to be a very proud moment for all of us.
Q. It has to go through your head that you watched that guy growing up.
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: Definitely. But I also watched Helio, Dario, T.K. I've had the opportunity to work by their sides the past three, four years. So I think that moment passed 2009, 2010. That was the moment of saying, Helio is by my side.
I've been able to build a great friendship with them and not look at them as the professionals as they are, but more as friends and competitors.
Q. Is it a big deal in Colombia to have three Colombians in the series?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: It's insane. It's huge. Sports in Colombia has been growing exponentially in the past 10 years. Last year we won our first gold medal in BMX actually. It's something that we're very proud of our athletes.
It's starting very slowly to portray the support from the government, from the public and private enterprises. So it is huge to have three Colombians in the same roof, the most professional series in America at IndyCar. There's a possibility of having a fourth. That's something that has never been even thought of in the past. We have Roberto Guerrero. Right now we have something like about 50 Colombians worldwide trying to make it.
Q. When you compete you want to do well for yourself. That's pressure for you to win for yourself and your sponsors. Do you ever feel that you have to do well for your country?
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: I think in general you just want to be the best of the best. That's my thinking, just winning the race or the season. In the end you want to be the best.
In this case, yes, you want to be the best of your country, but you also want to be the best in North America. I see the big picture more than just this regional goal.
THE MODERATOR: Sebastian Saavedra, thank you very much.
SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA: Thank you.