Tony Kanaan played an important role in what up until now has been one of the highlights of Simona de Silvestro's young IndyCar career. It was 2011 and the pair had a fierce battle for third place in the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
In the end, the cagey veteran was able to sneak in there and take third place by less than half a second, but he couldn't help but be impressed with the young Swiss driver.
"It was a difficult situation for both of us," Kanaan said. "I was just coming back from having no job to the first race of the season without any testing and I wanted that podium really bad. I knew I had the experience, but she gave me a run for my money. That right there showed me her potential."
Almost two years later, Kanaan will once again play a big role in de Silvestro's racing, although this time the two are teammates with KV Racing, which signed de Silvestro in October.
"He has so much experience and I can learn a lot from him and hopefully we can push each other to have really good results this year," de Silvestro said. "So far we're learning how to work with each other and all that and that's a really good thing."
De Silvestro had a trying year in 2012, competing for an under-funded HVM Racing team.
"You have to do the most with you have," she said. "Last year was a really long season, but something good came of it by joining KV and that's really positive."
Kanaan's said his appreciation for de Silvestro increased last season.
"One thing that struck me the most, aside from her talent, was how professional she was for the situation she was in," he said. "I think she handled herself better than I could.
"That's probably the beauty of being young. When you're young, you're just happy to be at the race track. When you're older, you're crankier and you complain about everything."
Kanaan was looking forward to playing the part of mentor.
"To be honest, this is her chance," he said. "She's on the best team, in my opinion, that she's ever been on since she's been in IndyCar. I have a history of teaching and I'm willing to give her whatever I can."
There is plenty to learn before St. Petersburg and not much time to do it, as the team has just three more testing days planned before the March 24 race.
"Engine-wise, it's a big difference for me," de Silvestro said. "I think we have much more horsepower in the Chevy engine and that's something I have to adjust to, but we're learning."
Another thing de Silvestro said was challenging was just learning who everybody is and getting comfortable around each other.
"Luckily my engineer came with me from last year and that makes it a little bit easier," she said. "Everybody knows each other and you have to kind of blend in a little bit, but so far it's really been going well. It's like when you go to a new school the first day."
Just having a teammate is also something de Silvestro said will take a bit of getting used to, but she was grateful for the opportunity.
"It's great for me to have a teammate," she said. "This is the first year that I have that. It's a little bit different when you're a one-car team everything kind of revolves around you and now it's cool to be sharing stuff."
Kanaan is entering his 12th year in IndyCar after five seasons in CART and said that it's become commonplace to see females racing on the track and he was glad to see it.
It's not about being a man or a woman," he said. "If it was we'd have a woman's league of IndyCar and a man's league. When you're in the car, you're just a driver. It's becoming no news when there is a lady racing because we have so many and they're becoming successful."