Q: Takuma, you're back to a place where you almost won a year ago...
TAKUMA SATO: Really the "500" last year is just an unforgettable day for me, just seconds by seconds what was happening the last six laps -- and not just the last six, but the whole entire weekend and month. You could say that it was special and spectacular show.
I think at the end of the day, obviously, I was disappointed with the result, but still it was just tremendous support from the team and a great experience leading the "500" the first time. It was a special feeling and in particular after a hard fight, hard race with everyone, when I come back to the garage, hundreds of fans waited and cheered me a long time and Bobby (Rahal, 2012 car owner) really gave a big hand. It was just a special event.
Q: Given that, given the fact that you not only did so well in Long Beach, come off a good run in Brazil, you've had great success here, you're leading the points. You've got to feel just full of confidence going into this event.
SATO: Every single event is counting for the confidence. Which, obviously, this year is an entirely new challenge with AJ Foyt Racing, which is very exciting, of course. Meeting A.J. is something special and having an opportunity to race for him and his team, it's really an honor. And I really feel proud to be part of that team because it's a relatively small team but, I think, a bunch of quality people.
And, of course, talking about performance, it's very impressive last year that the team really ramped up rapidly, very impressive to put everybody in the right place at the right time. You know, it's just managing a team really well. So that's [why we're] starting to show the performance.
When I jump into the car, I remember very clearly that first time at Sebring this winter test, the car was a bit different from what I was used to from last year but it was very, very consistent. I thought, "Hmm, this consistency, if you can maintain it, just sharpen up the speed, we could have been really, really strong." And that's what we did.
And Don Halliday [engineer], I've known him a long time. Obviously, in this series, he did a really great job. And it was just an immediate bond between me and him. And all the whole entire team really worked well, and everybody see at Long Beach it was the perfect race. No one made a mistake. Nothing, you know, nothing wrong. And no bad luck at all. So there was a beautiful day.
And, of course, Brazil was one of the most exciting races we ever had. In the end, obviously, I was disappointed being second, but still I think it's a great satisfaction for the series doing a fantastic job, and to be able to be leading a championship after Brazil is an extra bonus for me.
Q: Takuma, you have a teammate for this race, Conor Daly, and he was busy last weekend racing GP3 in Barcelona. Are you also involved in helping the setting up his car and guide him through all the procedures?
SATO: Sure. Obviously, he had had a really difficult -- not difficult, a busy time over the course of the last weekend and doing the racing in Europe and coming here and jumping straight into Indy car doing 219, 220 miles per hour, it is a very different world. But I think he did it very well and was really impressed that his speed is coming so quickly. Today, actually, we can split the proper program for the test program between two cars to evaluate so many great things. So Sunday our team has got a doubled-up data.
He did a really good test last December while I wasn't there, not being on a contract. He did a very impressive job. Everyone knew obviously he's a talented, quick kid, but to be able to be up to speed yesterday was something that give me confidence that we can share good data.
Of course, the car he drove yesterday was exactly the carbon-copy setup what we developed, and it was really good. You know, the car should be able straight away to be competitive through the ROP program, and at the end of the day he was clocking 219mph, which is really fast, you know. So that's really good.
He enjoyed being here. He seems to enjoy even the little traffic yesterday he experienced, and, for sure, in the next four days for him it's another entire experience. But I'm confident we can both work together, share the data and we will both push the team as much as we can.
Q: Takuma, we saw you talking very closely with Conor during his orientation yesterday while he was in the cockpit. What did you have to offer him from your experience here that translated on the track for him?
SATO: He has some little experience from junior formula days on an oval, but never at Indy. This is such a special place. You could say oval, but it's slightly unique. So the line he's taking and where you approach, you know, where you could use a tool, like tool bars and the weight jack and stuff like that, he's been instructed from the engineer, but it was such a short time before he jumped in the car.
Once he got in the car, it is difficult for us to accommodate all the speed and everything. So there's so much pressure. What I could see from his line, [he was] taking too tight a line at the beginning, because probably he wanted away from the wall, but then he at the same time went on the white line, too. I told him that's like me on the very last lap, so don't do that, that sort of thing!
He was laughing and it obviously took the pressure off.