After making his first test run of 2013 at Sebring on Monday, Marco Andretti expressed optimism that he has turned the corner from what he termed a "stressful and frustrating season."
“The toughest thing to do right now is to look back and look at what we could have done so I'm looking forward to what we can get done,” Andretti told IndyCar.com, acknowledging that he has changed his approach for the year ahead.
Andretti had three top-10 finishes last season, but his best results on road and street circuits were 11th (Barber and Belle Isle).
“My overall style, I've changed it,” he said, “and it's given me a new perspective for the street courses. Now I'm actually reporting the same things as Ryan [Hunter-Reay], where normally I'd be talking about the car being loose. I'm getting the same feedback from the car now that I've changed my style to be doing more of what he's doing.”
Andretti reckoned that his aggressive style on road/street courses has cost time on laps with the red Firestone tires. He hasn't made it into the Firestone Fast Six qualifying shootout on those tracks since Barber Motorsports Park in 2010.
“I've adapted slower than most to the tire that has less grip since '06 and '07 because I'm a very aggressive driver and it's kind of worked against me,” said Andretti. “I always knew I was overdriving the car, but I didn't know exactly how, so I've been really studying that. It's easier said than done to change; you can't just say, ‘Get it together!' You have to look at what you're doing, and as the street courses progressed, I got worse and worse because I was driving harder and harder.
“It makes sense because the first practice I'm always up there, and then as we get closer to qualifying and in qualifying I'm coming in soaking wet and I'm 21st. No kidding you're overdriving! But how are you overdriving?
“This offseason I've really been looking into details of how I've been doing that and essentially I was trying to make the front tires do two things at once. You want to drive your natural style because that's how you're going to be your quickest, but at the same time you have to drive with the tire. When you put me in a high-downforce car, sometimes my style is untouchable because the aggressiveness rewards you with grip, but it hurts you when there's no grip.”
Teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and James Hinchcliffe, along with Team Penske's Helio Castroneves and Will Power, also took part in Monday's private test as Chevrolet continued its preseason preparations by conducting runs using multiple setups. Andretti said he drew confidence from his laps that his new approach was working.
“On the street course-type corners, I'm already quicker there,” Andretti said following the first session. “It's all good.”