Skip to content

Third full year, and first real chance, for Saavedra to shine in 2014

Mar 20, 2014, 3:03 PM EDT

Photo: INDYCAR Photo: INDYCAR

Sebastian Saavedra enters 2014 in a bit of an odd position.

The Colombian is only 23, but 2014 will mark his fifth different IndyCar season, and third full one. In each season, he’s been with a different organization.

He made his Indianapolis 500 debut in 2010 by accident – literally – after he crashed late on Bump Day. But enough other cars withdrew their times to see Saavedra’s time still eligible for the field of 33. His debut was also the first race for Bryan Herta Autosport in the series.

Later in 2010, he started the season finale for Conquest Racing, which helped propel him into a full-time seat for 2011. With limited funding available, Saavedra struggled but occasionally overachieved despite missing two end-of-season races.

In 2012, he made a decision mature beyond his years, to step back to Indy Lights and learn more. In an AFS/Andretti Autosport entry, Saavedra won several races and had poor luck. But he got the chance at three more IndyCar starts with the same program, and again, did enough to merit some consideration for 2013.

So 2013 arrived and Saavedra entered the lair of Dragon Racing, but under controversial circumstances as an 11th hour replacement for Katherine Legge in the TrueCar-backed Chevrolet. Yet out of the gate, Saavedra turned in some sterling qualifying performances that left teammate Sebastien Bourdais scratching his head. Bourdais’ program improved in the second half of the year while Saavedra’s went the opposite direction entirely, in part due to crew changes.

You could argue for 2014, as Saavedra enters the AFS-backed KV Racing second seat – ironically as Bourdais’ teammate again – that he’s in exactly the same boat as the second KV driver last year, Simona de Silvestro (and yes, the names are confusingly similar).

Like de Silvestro, Saavedra has not had a full-season, top-flight opportunity and should improve from what was a trying previous season. Yet the field is so deep that given the lateness of this program coming together, it could take a few races for driver-and-team to hit their stride.

As it is, Saavedra’s relationship with Gary Peterson, through two Andretti stints and now for KV, has been the guiding force of his career.

“When I came from Europe in 2009, Gary was pretty much like my second dad, having my first dad present here of course,” Saavedra explained during IndyCar media day in Orlando.

“We built a very strong relationship.  He took me below his wing to develop me inside his driving development program. We come through since then.”

The step down to Indy Lights was something Saavedra had to do to stay in the frame. In recent years, he’s been the only example of a driver willing to make that decision rather than explore other series.

“It was that or doing nothing at all,” he admitted. “But it came with the opportunity to make ourselves stronger with AFS and Gary Peterson, trying not only to prepare, but keep learning.  At that time, being 20 years old, I had the opportunity to take chances, and still can.

“Now looking back, this is a reality because of those days.”

The KV/AFS partnership came together quickly, but KV team co-owner Jimmy Vasser has said this winter it is important to maintain teammate continuity. Saavedra learned from Bourdais last year, although both are optimistic they can forge their own paths this year to push the team forward.

“I’m actually being forced to,” Saavedra joked about working with Bourdais.

“No, we built a really great relationship last year. I think I respect Bourdais a lot and he respects me. I think that’s the key to building a great partnership with your teammate.

“I think we were able to understand each other and see development-wise that we needed each other to move forward. So I think it makes it a lot easier to have somebody by your side. As Jimmy said, you broke those barriers of who the heck is by my side. Definitely it’s a plus to have him on my side, something that is already natural.”

The “move forward” that both Saavedra and KV need to target in 2014 is an improved qualifying effort. Saavedra was tied for the worst qualifying average in the field in 2013 – 17.7 – with nary a Firestone Fast Six appearance and no starts better than 18th in the final 10 races.

The flashes of speed in the first half of nine races included five starts of 11th or better, with a best of sixth at Milwaukee.

He also only has two career top-10 finishes from 38 career starts. Those numbers can only improve if the qualifying does.

Road and street course qualifying was an area KV struggled in 2013. Both de Silvestro and Tony Kanaan had occasional highlights, but combined for only three Fast Six appearances between them.

Because Saavedra’s 2013 was such a struggle, he does enter 2014 from a position of strength knowing that he has nowhere to go but up. And Vasser expects his pair of “Sebs” to do just that.

“Jimmy sees Bourdais with a lot of respect, of course.  He saw me as the youngster that pretty much still has no limits,” Saavedra said. “He’s demanding a lot, of course. But that’s something we’re very welcome to.”

Latest Posts
  1. Power relieved, thankful to return to front row at Barber

    Apr 25, 2015, 7:11 PM EDT

    PowerBarber2 AP

    Second in qualifying a good day at the office for Will Power, as he’s in search of his first win of the year.

  2. Davey Hamilton to make driving comeback in next week’s IndyCar oval test

    Apr 25, 2015, 6:42 PM EDT

    DaveyKingdom Getty Images

    Davey Hamilton will have a one-off day back behind the wheel of a current day IndyCar, filling in for Townsend Bell at next week’s IndyCar open test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

  3. Indy Lights: Pigot follows up Barber pole with race one dominance

    Apr 25, 2015, 6:33 PM EDT

    Photo: Indy Lights Photo: Indy Lights

    Spencer Pigot dominates Indy Lights flag-to-flag in first race of weekend at Barber.

  4. WSR: Rowland wins Formula Renault 3.5 season-opener at Motorland Aragon

    Apr 25, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT

    © Renault Sport © Renault Sport

    A surprise in Spain for Rowland as on-track winner Meindert van Buuren is hit with a time penalty for jumping the start.

  5. WEC: Jarvis ready for close battle at Spa and Le Mans

    Apr 25, 2015, 3:15 PM EDT

    FIA World Endurance Championship 6 Hours of Silverstone Getty Images

    Audi no. 8 driver pleased with the team’s pace at Silverstone and in the recent test at Paul Ricard.

  6. Power, Penske to the fore in second IndyCar practice at Barber

    Apr 25, 2015, 2:33 PM EDT

    PowerBarberP2 AP

    Power on top in second IndyCar practice at Barber.

  7. MotoGP: Pedrosa making positive steps in injury recovery

    Apr 25, 2015, 1:45 PM EDT

    MotoGP Qatar Getty Images

    Spanish rider was sidelined following the Qatar Grand Prix due to an arm pump injury.

  8. Sam Bird previews the Monaco ePrix circuit (VIDEO)

    Apr 25, 2015, 12:15 PM EDT

    Formula E Championship In Buenos Aires - Cars Complete Shakedown Getty Images

    Preview the track that will host the next Formula E race on May 9.

  9. Dixon fastest in Barber opening practice in the Coca-Cola car

    Apr 25, 2015, 11:17 AM EDT

    Dixon's car in pit lane, and with new signage. Photo: Tony DiZinno Dixon's car in pit lane, and with new signage. Photo: Tony DiZinno

    Scott Dixon takes the Coca-Cola car to the top of the first practice session at Barber.

  10. Villeneuve: Leaving Ferrari may have ended Alonso’s career

    Apr 25, 2015, 11:00 AM EDT

    Jacques Villeneuve Getty Images

    Former F1 world champion and Indy 500 winner hits out at Alonso’s move to McLaren and Manor’s inclusion on the grid.

  11. WATCH: IndyCar qualifying from Barber at 5 p.m. ET on NBCSN, Live Extra

    Apr 25, 2015, 10:12 AM EDT

    Ryan Hunter-Reay AP

    Qualifying for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ race at Barber has been moved up to 5 p.m. ET, and 4 p.m. CT and local time on NBCSN.

  12. Lewis Hamilton tops British sporting rich list

    Apr 25, 2015, 9:30 AM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of Bahrain Getty Images

    Two-time F1 world champion named as the richest sportsman in Britain with a wealth of over $130m.

  13. Conor Daly confirmed for Indy 500 return, joins Schmidt Peterson

    Apr 25, 2015, 9:18 AM EDT

    Photo: SPM IndyCar Photo: SPM IndyCar

    Conor Daly has been confirmed in the Indianapolis 500 in SPM’s third car.

  14. Honda unveils new 2015 Accord safety car

    Apr 24, 2015, 9:11 PM EDT

    Photo: Honda Photo: Honda

    Honda takes the wraps off the new Accord safety car.

  15. Indy Lights: Pigot powers to pole in Barber

    Apr 24, 2015, 9:02 PM EDT

    Photo: Indy Lights Photo: Indy Lights

    Pigot scores his first Indy Lights pole at Barber.

  16. Formula E: Di Grassi anticipating “massive” Monaco ePrix

    Apr 24, 2015, 6:30 PM EDT

    AUTO-FORMULAE-URU-RACE Getty Images

    Formula E’s championship leader looks ahead to his adopted home race in Monaco on May 9.

  17. Palmer comfortable in Lotus reserve role after FP1 run-outs

    Apr 24, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of China - Practice Getty Images

    2014 GP2 champion reflects on the opening four races of the year with Lotus.

  18. WSR: Comtec pulls out of first Formula Renault 3.5 round, parts company with Regalia after three days

    Apr 24, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    © GP2 Series © GP2 Series

    Grid falls to 20 cars for the Formula Renault 3.5 opener in Spain this weekend.

  19. Report: Indian government recognizes national motorsport federation, aiding F1 hopes

    Apr 24, 2015, 2:00 PM EDT

    F1 Grand Prix of India - Race Getty Images

    The Indian Grand Prix was last held in 2013 at the Buddh International Circuit.