NASHVILLE, Tenn — Arrow McLaren SP has a major announcement set for Sunday morning. But, before we get to tomorrow, we have to focus on today. Felix Rosenqvist may or may not be affected by the teams imminent unveiling, but the Swede is showing this weekend that he deserves a second shot with the organization for 2022.
It’s no secret, Rosenqvist has struggled in his first year with the team. He sits a disappointing 25th in the NTT IndyCar Series standings, but part of that is due to missing two races for an injury suffered in the first of two races on the streets of Belle Isle.
Still, he was only 18th in points entering that day and left the weekend in 22nd. The highest he’s been all year in points was 16th. He’d even tell you that the 2021 campaign has been miserable.
Coming into the Nashville race weekend, Rosenqvist’s best finish was 12th on the streets of St. Pete. He was 13th a week later in the first race at Texas. Part of his slow start was due to him having to learn a new team.
Rosenqvist, spent his first couple of years in the sport with Chip Ganassi Racing. He was thriving there and showing a ton of promise. In his first 31 series starts, he had a win, a pole, three podiums, eight top five finishes, 15 top 10’s and 96 laps led.
Through his first eight starts with AMSP, he has no poles, no wins, no top fives or top 10’s and just 14 laps led.
He told me back in May that the adjustment between the two teams has been difficult for him.
“I would say it’s tougher than I thought because the setups are really different,” Rosenqvist told me one Wednesday morning from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “It’s just taking a lot of time to really understand the car because it’s a really different philosophy.”
He said that the ovals, tracks that normally are his strongsuits, were where he felt the most comfort in his No. 7 Chevrolet and it was the road/street courses to where they had a lot of work on.
Well, that work has paid off. After a month long break, Rosenqvist came out swinging in Nashville. In fact, he’s been the top Chevrolet driver in the entire camp.
He was seventh quickest in the opening practice session on Friday. He backed that up with being sixth in the Saturday session. For qualifying, he made it out of the opening round for the first time all year. In fact, he marched all the way to the Firestone Fast Six where he qualified his car in fifth. But, due to Alex Palou’s six spot grid penalty, he moves up one spot to fourth.
“Overall I’m very happy for the whole No. 7 Vuse Arrow McLaren SP team, as got into the Firestone Fast Six,” Rosenqvist said after a strong day on Saturday. “It’s been a tough stretch for us, but the break has allowed us to work hard and I feel like we’ve come back a lot stronger.”
Team President, Taylor Kiel, said that it was a strong day for Rosenqvist and glad to see that he’s showing that he deserves to be up front and hopes this performance can remain moving forward.
“A great day for Felix. It is great to see him up there where he belongs. We decided to make a couple changes over the break and evaluate some things. Hopefully this is the start of a strong push for him to close the season,” he said.
Rosenqvist, didn’t take much solace in the new found speed saying that while he’s glad to be in the Fast Six, it was a somewhat bittersweet performance in the sense that once you get to that round, you really want to go for the pole instead. His car just didn’t have quite enough in it to do so.
“I think when you’re in the Fast 6, you always want to go for the pole. It’s obviously bittersweet, but we really haven’t been this competitive till this point in the season.”
He said that the break was very beneficial to them. They worked to find some areas to improve upon and brought those changes to the Portland test. It worked. The next step was bringing it into Nashville this weekend and if it worked here, then watch out.
“It’s good to have a little break. I think we learned a lot in that time,” he continued. “Coming back to a track like this would definitely benefit us. We’re normally really good on the street tracks. In Detroit we were pretty quick in the race. It felt really good from the start yesterday.
“Just happy now for the whole team, Arrow McLaren SP, to be back where we belong. Hopefully we can keep this trend for the rest of the year.
As far as to what those improvements were made? He said that they found some areas heading into the Portland test and it’s paying off then and now.
“It’s hard to explain everything,” he said. “I think just drivability has been a little bit of an issue all season. I think we really made a good step. Yeah, from the moment we tried it in Portland, going here, it’s just been better. I think everyone’s been happy with it.
“I think it shows as well, at least from my side, that’s been one of my biggest struggles, just drivability, being consistent in general. And that’s been way different car for me this weekend. So, yeah, really happy with our progress.”
The team feels strong in general this weekend. Pato O’Ward was third in the first race at Detroit back in June and won the second day. He qualified eighth but Kiel notes that if not for Josef Newgarden’s crash, it was likely that AMSP would have both cars in the Fast Six instead.
“A bummer for Pato there to not transfer into the Firestone Fast Six,” Kiel said. “I think we had the time to do it but locked up going into the final corner. I think having to avoid Newgarden’s wreck didn’t help as it forced us to go off line and get some pick up on our tires which compromised our fast lap. It is a shame, but is what it is. We have a Warm Up tomorrow and then a race to go win so a lot to play for.”