Among the most respected engineers in the paddock, Michael Cannon is set for another fresh start after he was released from his duties as Tony Kanaan's engineer for KV Racing Technology-Lotus on Monday.
Kanaan currently lies fifth in the point standings, on the strength of two podium results and six additional top 10 finishes. But Cannon said from his home in Indianapolis that what happened in races was largely down to Kanaan's racecraft, more than any chemistry between driver and engineer established throughout practice and qualifying sessions.
“The two of us, we didn't gel,” Cannon said. “We'd go for a session or two and things clicked, then things went off. We worked well together, then it was contentious. It changed every session. Now, he's remarkably experienced, and his skills in the race are impressive in terms of getting things set up. But the practice and qualifying sessions were awful rocky.”
Cannon joined KVRT at the 11th hour, when Kanaan was announced less than a week before the season opener at St. Petersburg as the team's third driver.
He'd spent the previous four seasons with HVM Racing, earning wins in Champ Car with Robert Doornbos in 2007 and the last three years in IndyCar with E.J. Viso and then Simona de Silvestro in her 2010 rookie season. At the time, Cannon remarked how impressed he was with de Silvestro's technical feedback.
What he had with those three didn't translate to working with Kanaan, because the chemistry only attempted to develop on race weekends.
“All of those guys I was fortunate enough to establish a relationship beforehand,” he said. “You get a lay of the land. It was the same thing with Simona and E.J. Tony and I didn't have that luxury. We just had 20 laps at Homestead, and we tried to do our testing and adapt on the race weekends. I'm genuinely impressed we are where we are in the points. We never had a chance to build the chemistry.”
That said, the split was an amicable parting of ways, and frees up Cannon with the opportunity to pursue another engineering position before the end of the season. The key, he said, was getting enough lead time prior to getting thrown in at the deep end with another team.
“You'd be surprised who's been asking, and no kidding, there are opportunities from the real front of the grid on down,” he said. “Teams putting programs for next year might want to try somebody out beforehand, and get some help the rest of this year. It's encouraging.”
The surprise will come if there are any announcements, as Cannon didn't elaborate on who's been calling.
He won't be attending Thursday's IndyCar test in Sonoma – domestic public relations takes precedence as Cannon had to fulfill his job title as father in sending his children off to another year of school. As far as next week's race goes, Cannon's status is, like a handful of IndyCar seats this time of year, to be determined.
“If I am at Sonoma, I'd almost rather play observer,” he said. “It was limited participation for me at the start, being in the situation with KV where it was so brand new. To step in somewhere would be hard and unproductive. We'll see where it goes.”
Still, Cannon expressed no regrets over the season to this point.
“Tony and I tried to put together a championship team on no notice,” he said. “We weren't really clicking as well as could be with a strong team. He has to take 50 percent of the blame, and I have to take the other 50. Our personalities were not that compatible. I'm still glad that I did it, and had the chance to work with KV. It's showing its true colors this year with all the drivers.”