By Josh Farmer, IndyCar Reporter
Years in IndyCar: 2
Laps led: 124
2016-17 Team: Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
Now that Mikhail Aleshin is officially returning to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, there is much to be hopeful for.
The likable Russian returned to the cockpit of the No. 7 SMP Racing Honda last year after a year hiatus. He ended the year 15th in the standings, just two spots behind teammates James Hinchcliffe. Good for a guy that was out for a year, but it could have been just that much better.
The 29-year-old from Moscow, Russia dazzled the paddock in Indy 500 qualifying by driving his No. 7 Doom Honda sideways through the corners on his way to qualifying seventh.
A crash in the 500 ended his day 27th, but his performance the rest of the month shifted his season into high gear.
Good finishes of fifth at Iowa and sixth at Toronto built up some momentum heading into Mid-Ohio, where he would lead the most laps but finish 17th after a pit road mishap.
Pocono saw claim his first career pole and lead a blistering 87 laps. Will Power took the lead following the final pit stop but Aleshin soldiered through to finish second.
A couple of good runs at Texas and Watkins Glen were ruined due to a crash and a brake failure, respectively.
He was on par with Hinchcliffe on a number of occasions and consistently was one of the quicker Hondas in the pack.
For the upcoming 2017 season, there is good reason to expect the “Mad Russian” to excel even more. He seemed to hit a stride with new engineer Blair Perschbacher and with more time to connect, the pair can only get better.
It usually takes drivers a few seasons to get fully acclimated to IndyCar, but Aleshin has gotten up to speed very quickly. He has a good balance of being aggressive but well balanced.
In spite of his bravery, he needs to improve on a few things in order to be a complete driver. Handling his duties like a full-time job could be a good place to start as driving is just one part of the puzzle.
Spending time in the shop to go over the fine details with his team might be a good way to start. Calming down a bit can help too as there is a time to be aggressive and a time to be conservative.
If Aleshin can refine his skills a bit more, wins are sure to come.