James Hinchcliffe credits the arrival of new teammate Robert Wickens as a major factor in Schmidt Peterson Motorsport’s strong start to the Verizon IndyCar season.
Wickens arrived in IndyCar this year after a long career in Europe that included a hugely successful run in various junior categories as well as a six-year stint as a Mercedes factory driver in the DTM, which yielded six victories. He and Hinchcliffe go into this weekend’s GP of Indy sitting eighth and fifth respectively in the points, and Hinchcliffe said that Wickens’ experience has been a valuable asset to the team over the first four races of 2018.
“That would be the understatement of the year, I think,” he said. “I think every single member of the team and every department of the team has benefitted from Robbie being here. He’s pushed the engineers a lot. He’s brought a lot of insight on the mechanical side, things just that he’s experienced in his career.
“And then I don’t think anybody has benefited as much as I have just because having two strong drivers is the only way to make a team better, and Robbie and I luckily enjoy very similar setups.
“I think that’s one of the big problems I’ve had the last couple seasons, is my teammates have been quick at times, but we use very different race cars to achieve that. [Wickens] and I like very similar cars. We’ll come in from a session and look at the data trace, and they almost look like they overlap completely with one or two exceptions, and we learn each other’s one or two exceptions and we both get better. That’s the essence of teamwork in motorsports.”
Wickens reiterated he and Hinchcliffe’s similar taste in setups: “Long Beach, before qualifying, I literally just took his entire car. From his standpoint, a more immediate challenge is settling into his first month of May.
“Honestly, I don’t even know what to expect,” he admitted. “That’s the big thing. Honestly, full disclosure, I don’t really know. I’ve never been to a 500 as a guest. I think this whole event is just… James always told me that the whole month of May will go by and then you’ll be on your way to Detroit and think, ‘what the hell just happened?’
“I’m just trying to kind of keep my head above water and get through each obligation that I have throughout the whole day, but more importantly, we need to do a good job here this weekend. I think it’s very easy to get excited about the 500 and almost forget that we have the Indy GP starting now.”
Wickens already has a Speedway road course win to his credit – albeit on a different layout – with his Formula BMW victory at the venue in 2006.