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True/False: Sato, Vautier, and Bruno

by
Chris Estrada, Zachary Houghton, and Steve Wittich
| Jan 16, 2013

While the 2013 INDYCAR and IZOD IndyCar Series season creeps ever closer, there remain many unanswered questions as to just what the next chapter in the record book holds in store.

Our fearless band of prognosticating writers are still shaking off the holidays lethargy (and pounds), but they’re willing to give their opinions on three True/False questions. Read on, and see what they have to say on a triad of IndyCar driving hopefuls.

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True or False: Signing Takuma Sato will pay off for A.J. Foyt's team.

Chris Estrada, IndyRacingRevolution.com

False. Taku’s philosophy of “No Attack, No Chance” can be fun to watch, but it’s also proven to be a detriment at times. Nevertheless, four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt is hoping that the former F1 pilot’s fearless mentality will be the key to getting his team back to Victory Lane for the first time since 2002 (Airton Dare, Kansas). But this is definitely a risk being taken by the Foyt camp, and it’s only going to work if Sato can stay out of trouble and get results. His two podiums at Sao Paulo and Edmonton last season showed that he can put together complete races, but we’ve always known that he’s got talent. It’s his patience – or rather, his lack thereof – that’s been holding him back.

I’d like to think that Sato can get the job done with the legendary Foyt holding him accountable, but I need to see it before I believe it.

Zachary Houghton, IndyCarAdvocate.com

True. Takuma Sato has been inches away from victory a couple of times now, but unfortunately those inches usually mean contact. Taku is fast, aggressive, and looks to be just about everything A.J. would want in a driver. This team obviously suffered some setbacks last year, and the new engineering efforts never really seemed to gel with Mike Conway behind the wheel. Now, with another year of quality engineering under their belt and a driver who has the type of speed that can win a race, I think they’ll move up the point standings. They finished P21 last year, so they can hardly do worse. Sato will make his mistakes, but he’s been so close. He’s got to seal the deal at some point, right? (At least, that’s what we Sato backers tell ourselves so we can sleep at night)

If nothing else, the Sato/Foyt pairing should be one of the more entertaining ones we’ve seen in a while. I happen to think it’ll be paired with improvements on the track.

Steve Wittich, INDYCAR Nation Contributor

True. In the past A.J. has stated that he likes to hire aggressive drivers.  With Taku he is finally getting that aggressive driver who leaves it all on track, but since I can’t just say it is my gut choosing me to say true, I will add a couple of points behind my reasoning.  Veteran, respected engineer, Don Halliday, will be back for his second year with Foyt.  Both Halliday and Sato are excellent at chassis development, and I would expect to see them work very well together.  While double headers might not be for everybody, I believe that they might benefit Sato.  Takuma is very stout on street circuits, and I expect the majority of the field to be cautious during the first half of the race.  I would not be surprised to see Takuma score a win in the first half of a double header.

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True or False: Tristan Vautier could succeed in IndyCar if he gets a full-time ride.

Chris:

True. There would, of course, be a steep learning curve to negotiate, but the reigning Firestone Indy Lights champion has at least earned the opportunity to try his luck in the big leagues. Titles in successive seasons along the Road to Indy (Star Mazda, 2011; FIL, 2012) have made Vautier a hot prospect, and if he can gather enough funding to compliment the $1 million scholarship he earned for his efforts in Lights last season, he can find a decent team. But even with a back-marker squad, I think the young Frenchman has the talent to move his way up the grid if necessary.

The best-case scenario for him, perhaps: His Lights owner, Sam Schmidt, decides to roll out a second DW12 for 2013 and puts him in it alongside Simon Pagenaud. Can you say “Le French Connection?”

Zachary:

True. Some drivers are simply winners, and that’s a label we can easily apply to Tristan Vautier. Even ignoring for a moment his successes in Europe, he’s won the championship of two Mazda Road to Indy ladder series in two years. In both his Star Mazda and Firestone Indy Lights title runs, he outperformed drivers with more experience that were generally championship favorites. As a result, Vautier has moved up, and has done so in a manner illustrating how the Mazda Road to Indy can work.

I certainly hope Sam Schmidt or another owner gives this young driver a chance. I have been impressed by his composure and maturity, and believe if he is given a decent program and a chance to develop, he can have an excellent run in the IZOD IndyCar Series.

Steve:

True. Tristan has won in karting, Formula Campos, Formula Renault 2.0, French GT3, Formula Palmer Audi, Star Mazda and Indy Lights.

What the 2012 Firestone Indy Lights field lacked in quantity, it made up for it in quality.  Of the full-time drivers, only Vautier and Carlos Munoz had no prior experience in Indy Lights.  To beat experienced racers like Esteban Guerrieri, Gustavo Yacaman and Sebastian Saavedra was quite impressive for a rookie.

Simply put, Tristan is a winner, and if given the right opportunity, he has a good chance to have a long and successful IndyCar career.

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True or False: Bruno Junqueira is the best free agent out there for this year's Indy 500.

Chris:

True. I think any team that can land the services of “Junky” has the potential for a steal in the Month of May. The Brazilian has the credentials on his side (a pole in 2002 and two top-5 finishes in his ‘500’ career), and he can be counted on to get the car up to speed in relatively short order. Let’s not forget about Alex Lloyd, either. He finished fourth at Indy in 2010 for Dale Coyne, and also has several years of experience as well.

Still, if I had a spare car and engine and I had to choose someone from the ‘free agent’ pool, Junqueira would probably be my first choice.

Zachary:

False. I will never object to seeing Junky try to work his magic at Indy, but frankly, there is a bumper crop of free agents out there. Let’s not forget, at the time I write this, Ryan Briscoe is still a free agent, as are gutsy drivers like Alex Lloyd and oval specialists like Townsend Bell.  Bruno is towards the top of the list, but he’s not quite number one.

Steve:

False. With the 2012 Indy 500 pole sitter Ryan Briscoe and 500 stand-outs Townsend Bell and Alex Lloyd currently on the sidelines, it would be hard to put Bruno at the top of my list.  Unfortunately, the negative consequences of Bruno’s lack of open wheel seat time in the last four years outweigh his innate ability to get a car up to speed quickly.  If you were to ask me who the best driver to get a car in the field with limited seat time, my answer very well might be true.

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