IndyCar rookie Tristan Vautier says he has been encouraged by his strong performances in preseason testing.
The 23-year-old, who completes Schmidt Peterson Motorsport's expanded two-car lineup alongside compatriot Simon Pagenaud this year, was quickest in the recent test at Sebring, and unofficial times again put him at the top of the sheets at Wednesday's Sonoma test.
But despite the promising early signs, Vautier cautions that he still has a lot of work ahead to prepare for his debut in the season-opener at St. Petersburg.
"For sure, [being quickest] helps with confidence because at least you know you are not totally out of the window," the Frenchman said. "But what is important right now is not to get overconfident, and also not to put any extra pressure on myself if things get tougher once the racing starts.
"Sometimes if things start really well and then all of a sudden it gets tough at the first race weekend, it is really easy to lose focus on your job, and that just creates more pressure.
"Things like this can give you confidence, but they can also have a negative effect if you use them the wrong way. It's always good to see some speed but I really don't want to put too much value onto that for now. I have to focus on what to improve."
With the opening race just over three weeks away, Vautier said that the team did not give him any performance benchmarks at Sonoma, with the emphasis instead being directed toward general race preparation.
It was also an opportunity for him to further settle in with the team, although the promotion of several of the crew members from his Indy Lights campaign to his IndyCar effort has helped fast-track that process.
"It does help," says Vautier, who won last year's Lights title with Schmidt. "It's good for someone like me, who has so much to learn, to not have to also learn a completely new team. It's like you are still in the same environment, so it's one less variable to worry about."
While Vautier's energy is directed toward what he can improve upon ahead of the first race, he says that the Sonoma test reinforced his confidence in the fundamental pace of the Schmidt equipment.
"The car was good," he said. "I was struggling a bit in the fast corners on older tires, and I was struggling a bit with consistency. So from Sonoma, what I have to work on is consistency on older tires. But the car was fast.
"That's one thing: I know that if I do the job, it really looks like I am going to have the car behind me. Simon was also very fast and very consistent, so I think the team has a strong package."