Wickens, who loved a standout rookie marketing campaign by which he scored a number of podium finishes, then suffered a horrendous shunt at Pocono Raceway that left him with a spinal twine harm.
However whereas the 29-year-old continues to battle again to health, his longtime good friend and rival from karting days Hinchcliffe is constructive that the legacy of Wickens’ first 14 races with SPM-Honda will nonetheless assist the workforce.
“IndyCar’s 2018 spec aerokits haven’t modified for this coming season and there are not any main modifications to the tires,” he advised Motorsport.com, “so little doubt, Robbie’s enter will nonetheless be felt.
“He helped push the path of the workforce, notably with the roadcourse setups, and located a extremely good path. With out modifications to the automobiles, these setups will nonetheless be related and pays dividends in 2019. And it’s completely our hope he’ll nonetheless be concerned within the engineering aspect in some capability and provides us enter.”
One of many causes for Schmidt Peterson wanting constantly sturdy in 2018 was mentioned to be the massive diploma of commonality between what Hinchcliffe and Wickens wished from their automobiles, regardless of their driving-style variations. Hinchcliffe says he’s been happy to seek out that what he and new teammate – Method 1 exile Marcus Ericsson – are in search of from their automobiles can also be reassuringly comparable, a reality he confirmed in yesterday’s 11-car check at Sebring.
“I wasn’t there for Marcus’s first run in December,” he mentioned, “however I heard we had been fairly shut, based mostly on what the engineers noticed from him.
“Besides, I used to be stunned to see simply how shut we had been, now we’ve had our first likelihood to run collectively on the identical day. Within the afternoon, we tried totally different instructions however with comparable parts, and our suggestions was virtually equivalent.
“Positive, it was solely Day 1 in our work collectively however I’m cautiously optimistic we’re on the identical path.”
Though Ericsson completed the day eighth quickest, zero.63sec slower than his veteran teammate, Hinchcliffe mentioned that was irrelevant.
“Marcus actually hit his stride on the finish of the day, and the ultimate lap instances don’t do him justice due to monitor situations,” he noticed. “He was in a position to go actually fast when everybody else was having to decelerate, so I’d say he had an important day.”
Ericsson will run the #7 automobile this yr as workforce homeowners Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson don’t think about him a alternative for Wickens. As an alternative, the #6 is being saved vacant till each time Wickens feels able to attempt an IndyCar once more.
Hinchcliffe constructive on setup modifications
Hinchcliffe, who has six IndyCar victories to his credit score, mentioned that though Sebring lap instances aren’t essentially related, he was completely happy to be quickest in yesterday’s check contemplating how productive it had additionally been in attempting a number of setups.
“Definitely it’s not a nasty option to choose up driving duties in 2019,” he remarked. “I haven’t been in an IndyCar since final September in Sonoma, so it’s reassuring to know I hadn’t forgotten find out how to flip left and proper or find out how to use the gasoline and brake…
“However severely, it was a really productive day. Our program was about knocking off some big-ticket check objects that we wouldn’t usually get to on a race weekend. They’re too massive to threat attempting in a 45-min apply session on a race weekend
“So we most likely did the fewest quantity of laps of anybody there as a result of we had been within the truck making some wholesale modifications to the automobile. Some labored properly, some didn’t, so there have been components of the day the place we had been on the backside of the time charts and struggling, and components of the day the place we had been prime.
“However I’m pleased with the fellows that we saved our focus. Even when the automobile was actually fast within the morning, we had been ready to utterly abandon that setup as a way to hold checking off objects on the check listing. We didn’t get side-tracked by the temptation of pursuing Sebring lap instances, which in the end don’t imply lots.”
That mentioned, Hinchcliffe didn’t deny that his finest instances – he set quickest time within the morning and afternoon classes – had been the results of qualifying simulations.
“Yeah, on the new-tire runs we chased the last word time,” he mentioned, “since you’ve acquired to get your self and the workforce tuned up for qualifying classes.
“We’ve solely acquired a couple of extra check days at Laguna Seca and Spring Coaching at COTA earlier than we head off to St. Petersburg [for the opening round of the season], so it’s vital to be ready for the whole lot a race weekend throws at you.
“You attempt to run these checks like a race weekend as a lot as attainable. You make setup modifications in a well timed method and conduct your self on pitlane as for those who had solely 45 minutes of operating time, like in our apply classes. That’s an excellent refresher.”
By way of priorities nevertheless, Hinchcliffe mentioned his and the #5 SPM-Honda workforce’s focus was enhancing rear-end stability – one thing that Josef Newgarden and Penske pursued once they examined there final December.
“That’s one thing we struggled with all final yr,” mentioned Hinchcliffe, “so we went to Sebring with massive modifications to use and check out. As I mentioned, a few of them labored higher than anticipated, a few of them didn’t work in any respect, however that’s why we go testing.
“It’s clearly solely Day 1, so the issues we appreciated at Sebring must be corroborated at different tracks, but when all of it goes in response to plan, then what we’ve finished is open our window by way of setup choices going ahead.
“I felt final yr we generally felt backed right into a nook and needed to sorta ‘make do’ but when what we discovered at Sebring works elsewhere too, then we must always have much more adjustability within the automobile which is able to clearly serve us properly.”