Simon Pagenaud is a racing driver from France who is better known on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean than in Europe because he won several championship titles in North America.
First, in 2006, he won Champ Car Atlantic Championship. Then, in 2010, he won American Le Mans Series title. Since 2012 he competes full time in the IndyCar Series, winning the title in 2016. In 2019, he won Indianapolis 500.
In Europe, his greatest success was the second place overall at 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2011, together with Peugeot Total teammates Sebastien Bourdais and Pedro Lamy.
Solid success at the national level
Born in May 1984 in Poitiers, city in the west-central France, Simon Pagenaud entered into the world of racing in 2001, competing in Formula Campus by Renault and Elf. Simon has won 4 races from 17 starts and finished the series as a vice-champion. The following year Pagenaud entered the French Formula Renault and again did very well, finishing third in the standings with one race victory on his account.
In the same competition in 2003, Pagenaud finished 6th, but he did better racing in the Formula Renault 2000 Masters series as he was 3rd in the points, scoring one win from eight starts. In the 2004 campaign, French driver again entered both French Formula Renault and Renault 2000 Eurocup series. In the national competition, Simon again finished 6th, while in Eurocup he was runner-up, losing the battle against another future ace – Scott Speed.
Champ Car Atlantic champion as a rookie
In 2005, Pagenaud competed in Formula Renault 3.5 Series, as a member of Saulnier Racing, but that year was one to forget. Simon couldn’t win or finish in Top 3 from 16 starts, but he scored 30 points to finish 16th in the Drivers championship. That was his last year to race in Europe as Pagenaud switched to Champ Car Atlantic, driving for Team Australia in 2006.
He surprised many by winning the title in his rookie season after winning only one race, at Edmonton, but he continued driving in good form throughout the whole season.
In 2007, Pagenaud stayed with the same team but competed in the Champ Car World Series. He had a solid season, scoring six Top 5 finishes what was enough for the sixth place in the final standings. Champ Car racing ceased in 2008, so Pagenaud somewhat unexpectedly switched to endurance racing.
Switch to endurance racing in 2009, ALMS champion in 2010
The Frenchman entered American Le Mans Series as a pilot of De Ferraris Motorsport and had quite good results in LMP2 class, claiming 9th place. In 2009, his impact on the competition was deep. Still sharing the seat of De Ferraris Motorsport’s Acura with the Brazilian Gil de Ferran, but this time competing in the LMP1 class, Pagenaud finished as a runner-up. He has won five out of 10 races, narrowly losing the battle with Patron Highcroft Racing drivers Scott Sharp and David Brabham.
Ultimately, Pagenaud won ALMS title in 2010 with Patron Highcroft Racing. He arrived as a substitute for Sharp and fully lived up the expectations. Simon, driving alongside Brabham, won four out of nine races to grab LMP/LMP1 class title.
Podium at Le Mans in 2011
Expectations in 2011 were high but Pagenaud was torn with duties in too many championships what caused fickle results. The highlight of the year definitely was the 2nd place in LMP1 at 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The year of 2011 was important Simon because of his debut in IndyCar Series, and although he started in three races, his performances stayed almost unnoticed.
2012 IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year
And then in 2012, Pagenaud surprisingly found himself as the full-time driver in IndyCar Series. He signed with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and did above all the expectations. His open-wheels racing experience helped him to adjust quickly and to achieve really good results – second place at Long Beach and third place at Detroit, Mid-Ohio, and Baltimore what was enough for 5th position at the end of the season and the Rookie of the Year award.
In 2013, Simon was even better. He has won two races (Detroit and Baltimore) and finished second at Mid-Ohio, climbing to the 3rd place in the Drivers’ championship. In the following season, still driving SPM’s Dallara-Honda, Pagenaud finished 5th in points after winning the races at Indianapolis, what was the first Grand Prix at the famous track, and Houston. His driving drew the attention of the bigger teams, so he soon changed team colors, by signing for Team Penske.
2016 IndyCar champion with Team Penske
The first season with a new team wasn’t perfect. Pagenaud hasn’t won any of 16 races, but he had two podiums finishes, again at Detroit and Mid-Ohio, circuits which are obviously well suited for the Frenchman. Even though the Poitiers-born ended the season at 11th place, Team Penske opted to extend his contract for 2016, making probably one of the best decisions.
The start of the new season was absolutely brilliant. Pagenaud had five out of five podium finishes. The Frenchman finished second at St.Petersburg and Phoenix before snatching three consecutive victories at Long Beach, Barber Motorsports Park, and Indianapolis pointing out as the most serious candidate to lift the trophy at the end of 2016.
Later in the year Simon's form dropped slightly but he was on the top of the standings throughout whole season. He recovered with a win at Mid-Ohio and before the last round of the year Pagenaud had advantage over Will Power and ended the campaign in great style, winning the race at Sonoma Raceway and clinching the title.
Vice-champion in 2017 behind teammate Newgarden
In 2017, Pagenaud stayed with Team Penske and fought for the championship title again. He won two races but lost a title fight against his younger teammate Josef Newgarden.
In 2018, he stayed for the fourth consecutive season with Team Penske. It was a winless season for Pagenaud and he finished sixth in the points with just two podiums in seventeen races.
Victory at Indianapolis 500 in 2019
In 2019, Pagenaud stays with Team Penske and returned to the top podium spot at Indianapolis Motor Speedway where he won IndyCar Grand Prix at road course circuit.
A couple of weeks later, at IMS oval track, he scored his greatest IndyCar Series victory by triumphing at Indianapolis 500. He started the race from pole, led for 116 laps and won by just 0.2086 seconds ahead of Alexander Rossi.
Later in the season, he won one more time (Toronto) and finished second in the points, behind teammate Josef Newgarden.