First in a series looking at the IZOD IndyCar Series season of championship runner-up Will Power through various eyes. Today, engineer David Faustino talks about what he learned this year.
In some areas, David Faustino probably knows more than Will Power’s wife, Liz, about what makes the IZOD IndyCar Series driver tick. After all, the engineer and Power have worked together for five Indy car seasons, including the past three on the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske program.
Long, insightful, occasionally feverish hours together in an attempt to uncover and implement a minute detail to realize a tenth-of-a-second quicker lap time. Such sessions were standard operating procedure in Champ Car, through the transition in 2008 to INDYCAR and this past season with the new Dallara chassis-Chevrolet engine package.
Click it: Power assesses his season
“Spending time together, we start to think more like each other,” said Faustino, of Spotswood, N.J., bypassing the opportunity to make light of the Aussie’s fanciful personality.
Their goal, of course, is the series championship – and for the third consecutive season they came agonizingly close. The approach to race weekends, however, was altered.
“Our outlook changed a little because we had more of a one-race-a-time approach in that we’re just going to do the best we can,” Faustino said. “We’re not going to count points. In a way that almost relaxed him a little bit because last year he put himself in an anxious position of ‘I have to win this race. If I don’t win this race I am not going to win’ because it was a battle between him and Dario (Franchitti) for the championship. This year, it shuffled who were the championship contenders.
“I’ve seen Will change and mature in that respect. He’s not going to stick his neck out to win a race or a pole if it’s going to potentially compromise the overall result. In a way, I think it’s let him focus on things he can control instead of things he can’t control. He’s done that a lot better this year, and the team as well.”
Power recorded three consecutive early-season victories and added seven other top-10 finishes though he took four grid spot penalties. Five earned poles ran his Indy car career total to 29, which is eighth on the all-time list (tied with Franchitti).
“Approaching the season, we expected results to be a lot more variable with the engine manufacturers and a different car,” Faustino said. “We didn’t come into the season expecting to qualify as well as we did last year and win as many races as we did last year.
“This year, Will has just been really consistent on the road courses. He was strong at the beginning of the year and he’s been strong throughout the year. The ovals have been DNFs or contact.”
If results hadn’t materialized, it wouldn’t have been because of a lack of preparation. Power was among the Chevrolet program’s development drivers through last fall and winter – a driver well-suited to provide concise and honest feedback about the 2.2-liter, twin-turbocharged V6 engine and Dallara chassis package.
“Will transitioned from Reynards to Lolas to Panoz in Champ Car, and we did the transition from Champ Car to INDYCAR so we jumped from chassis to chassis to chassis,” Faustino noted. “We’ve spent time together when a new package comes along trying to figure it out quickly, and as a team I think we came out a bit more prepared this year. Team Penske won the first four races.
“It’s a little easier on road and street courses because our philosophies carry over; it’s a little harder to do on ovals. At Indy, we had more learning to do. Our background together going through the transitions this year have helped a lot because we could reflect on other years when we had to switch.
“For the most part, we’re always thinking about what we can do to make the car better. He keeps learning so much about the car now that he can come up with setup changes in his mind and I can focus on the details of those setup changes and how they propagate through the rest of our setup and car strategy and plan.
“When cars get so spec like this, some of the things you do to be quick are just in the execution. He’s incredibly good at taking all that information and putting it all together.”