Simon Pagenaud believes new IndyCar teammate Scott McLaughlin will win a race in his rookie campaign.
Pagenaud will be starting his seventh consecutive season with Team Penske later this year. For the first time since 2017, he will have three teammates.
Will Power and Josef Newgarden stay on for another year, while McLaughlin joins the fold as one of three rookies in the class of 2021.
The three-time Supercars Champion did make a one-off appearance with the squad at last year’s finale in St. Petersburg. On the eve of the race, it was then confirmed the Kiwi would be coming on full-time with Penske from 2021.
While McLaughlin’s pre-season testing pace hasn’t been as strong as the likes of his more experienced teammates, his speed has been improving.
Speaking at a content day ahead of the start of the new season, Pagenaud says he was adamant that McLaughlin would win a race this year.
“[McLaughlin] is going to win a race. I guarantee it,” Pagenaud said. “He’s going to win at least a race this year. He’s a phenomenal driver.
“He’s got a great drive and really good feedback, as well. I’ve really liked him coming on board.
“It’s four drivers now. It’s a little bit more — it’s a good number working together. It helps having him, having his engineer and everybody that was added from the sports car program.”
Pagenaud added that over time and with experience, McLaughlin would seal an IndyCar title.
“He’s going to be tough to beat in the future. He’s going to be a champion. He’s being tempered because he has to be.
“But I’ll tell you what, on the other side [of the team’s pit bay], seeing what he can do, expect great things.”
Penske experienced a shaky 2020 season, with periods of promise mixed in with races where they struggled significantly compared to their rivals.
Pagenaud hopes the team can be on the front foot from the get-go this year, adding that McLaughlin’s addition has helped bring a fresh perspective to the issues from last season.
“It’s helped to have fresh blood coming in and having another vision on things. Sometimes it’s good to get refreshing ideas.
“I’m pretty excited about this. To me, it’s only been good to be four [cars] as long as I’ve been at Team Penske. This is year seven already.
“Yeah, I think it’s going to be a very good season for us as a team.”