Christian Lundgaard

New NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver Christian Lundgaard has known his new race engineer, Ben Siegel, less than two weeks, and the Rahal Letterman Lanigan pairing has had just one day of testing together.

But Lundgaard, the 20-year-old Danish driver who spent last season in Formula 2, expects to be ready when the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season begins with the start of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding on Sunday, Feb. 27 (live coverage at noon ET on NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network).

The St. Petersburg race will be Lundgaard’s second with RLL, as he made his NTT INDYCAR SERIES debut with the team last August on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

“I think having a race (with RLL) last year helped, and we had a test day last year at Barber (Motorsport Park),” he said. “The car’s great. The job the team has done to get me feel comfortable has been amazing. I’m pretty happy with how far we are so far.

“The more days (in the car) the better, I suppose, but I guess we’ll do the days we have, and I have to trust the team to educate me enough for the first race.”

Lundgaard and Siegel will have one more test day – Feb. 14 at Sebring International Raceway – to get aligned for the season to begin.

Their first test day together was Jan. 10 at Sebring, and the No. 30 Honda-powered entry finished with a best lap that slotted in between those of Meyer Shank Racing drivers Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves. Lundgaard’s best lap was only a tenth of a second behind Pagenaud’s, and he was more than two-tenths quicker than Castroneves.

But Lundgaard downplayed the significance of the time sheet because INDYCAR does not race at Sebring, and each track presents unique challenges. Plus, it’s never clear what other teams are trying to achieve on a test day, and afternoon rain kept Lundgaard from making a final new-tire run. Next month’s test should provide a better assessment since most of the field will be in attendance.

Still, there is reason to expect good things from Lundgaard and his program this season. Lundgaard had never seen the IMS road course, much less an INDYCAR race weekend, when he arrived for last year’s Big Machine Spiked Coolers Grand Prix in August. In the first 45-minute practice, he was seventh among 28 car-and-driver combinations. Later in the day, he qualified fourth.

Lundgaard might have finished better than 12th in the 85-lap race without the effects of food poisoning and a better understanding of how Firestone tires perform over long runs. Still, it was an impressive debut, strong enough to catapult him into consideration for RLL’s expanded lineup.

RLL signed Lundgaard to pair with INDYCAR veterans Graham Rahal and Jack Harvey, and it signed Siegel from Ed Carpenter Racing.

Lundgaard and fellow INDYCAR rookie Callum Ilott (Juncos Hollinger Racing) were race winners in F2’s 2020 season won by now-Formula One driver Mick Schumacher. Both drivers are considered rare talents with a history of being fast. The key will be to get them acclimated quickly.

“(Siegel) is a great guy, and I think the team is doing a great job of getting us settled in,” Lundgaard said. “I think it’s as difficult for him as it is for me coming to a new team, but I think for us straight away as a new package is somewhat of a small advantage as much as a disadvantage because I feel we have to build something up (by) starting from scratch and learning from each other.

“I’ve got my full confidence in him and the team, and I’m sure we will achieve greater things than we can imagine at the moment.”