Tony Kanaan and Simona De Silvestro believe their strong pace in the IZOD IndyCar Series opener was just what they and their KV Racing Technology team needed after a poor 2012 campaign.
The team co-owned by former Champ Car chief Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser endured a disappointing season in 2012, with Kanaan finishing as the team's highest-placed driver in ninth. Former teammates Rubens Barrichello and EJ Viso ended up 12th and 20th, respectively. De Silvestro, meanwhile, was the only driver to use the vastly under-developed Lotus engine for the entire 2012 season while racing for HVM, and wound up 24th.
However, both started the new season strongly on Sunday at St. Petersburg, with Kanaan finishing fourth and De Silvestro running third in the late stages before fading to sixth after using up her tires. According to Kanaan, the good start was exactly what the team – and de Silvestro – needed.
"For the team we had few struggles last year, so we had definitely all the eyes on us at this time," he said. "I think Simona had a lot to prove because people were, 'We'll see, this and that.' Us [KV], as well.
"I think as a team we did a great job. Still got to do better – we want to win races and finish with both cars on the podium. But it was a good weekend."
De Silvestro said she felt that a strong start was especially needed on her part.
"I think it was really important. I think especially more for me than for everybody else," she said. "I think I had a little bit of doubts during the offseason if I was able to run up front after the season I had last year.
"It was just a big relief that we started off the weekend really strong, qualified up front and pretty much were up front the whole race. So it was really good. I think it was a big confidence boost for me and the team. I think now we can clean up a few things to be even better."
This season marks the first time that De Silvestro has worked with a teammate, having spent her previous three years with the single-car HVM squad. She says the chance to debrief with Kanaan's engineer as well as her own
"I think, for sure, at the beginning of testing we're starting to learn how to do that," she said. "I've never had to do that in the past for years. I think in Barber at the test and in St. Pete, in the evening I think we talked about it. Also after the sessions, we talked about what they ran, what we ran, what we experienced, even after the race. I think things are starting to click, kind of learn how to work with a teammate."
Kanaan, the 2004 IndyCar champion, believes that his experience coupled with De Silvestro's ambition made for a good combination, and one that can ultimately drive the team forward.
"Simona brought a lot of spark and light into the team.," he said. "I enjoy working with her. I have no problem teaching her whatever I can. But I like to see this young girl that wants to do well, because that's her opportunity.
"That obviously pushes me to my limit. I'm going to admit that she's extremely fast. I said that even before she was my teammate, so I'm not trying to make any excuses!
"For me it's good. My entire career, I had hard teammates. I had (Alex) Zanardi as a teammate, Dario (Franchitti) as a teammate, (Ryan) Hunter-Reay as a teammate. Those are people that are extremely good. It's good to get beat sometimes. That's how we learn.
"I'm going to beat her sometimes, she's going to beat me sometimes. We're going to be cool. She's not going to like the days I finish ahead of her, and likewise.
"As long as we use that to our advantage, it's going to be awesome. The relationship between her and me right now, it reminds me of when me and Zanardi were teammates back in the day."