INDIANAPOLIS — If you hang around the paddock of the NTT INDYCAR Series long enough, you’d likely see the duo of Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist sharing a ride on a scooter. Yes, the two teammates don’t ride a separate scooter or different golf carts around the facilities that they’re competing in. When you see one, you usually see the other.
They’re good friends.
They’ve thrived together in the 2 years as teammates with Arrow McLaren SP. However, there may not be a 3rd year. We know O’Ward will be back in his No. 5 Dallara-Chevrolet for 2023. He signed an extension that keeps him here through 2025. We also know Alexander Rossi will be in 1 of the remaining 2 cars on the AMSP side.
Who’s in the 3rd?
Rosenqvist signed a new deal to remain in the McLaren family but it may not necessarily be on the INDYCAR side. There’s 2 Formula E seats open too and if Alex Palou truly does end up with McLaren next season and he’s not in Formula 1, there’s a chance he bumps Rosenqvist out of the seat of the No. 7 Dallara-Chevrolet.
“Oh, I mean the guy has a contract, like I mean, if not, then contracts wouldn’t be written for anything, right?” said current McLaren driver O’Ward of Palou. “Like, from my understanding, he has a contract. And I don’t think he has a choice. When you have a contract and the team decides what you do, you don’t have a choice.”
“I know that’s the problem but like there wouldn’t be a second problem if he just said ‘sorry.’ Because when you have a contract your hands are tied, man. It doesn’t matter if you really want to leave the team. You can’t you cannot. Because the team chose to, to keep you and doesn’t matter where you are mentally does not matter. If, if that’s what the contract says then he’s got one and I don’t know how it is, but from my understanding is he’s got a contract. And I think, yeah, I mean, for me, it’s like, I mean, I’m very curious to see how it all plays out at all. I think everyone else is too but yeah, but like, I mean, I don’t think like he doesn’t have a choice. Unless the contract says that it’s got to be a mutual.”
That’s a potential future teammate here and he’s got questions. I asked O’Ward about that today. If Palou truly does end up with McLaren and his destination is here with Arrow McLaren SP, does he have trust issues already with his new teammate and how he handed this current situation?
“I think many drivers thought who he was,” he told me. “But yeah, what everybody can expect from me is honesty. Every single time doesn’t matter if you’re a reporter. Doesn’t matter if you’re a team owner, doesn’t matter if you’re my friend, I’m going to tell you the truth. And you will see right through me if I’m lying or not, and I choose not to do it because there’s no point in lying to somebody. Yeah, maybe it’ll rattle some things up, but I’m much I’d much rather be honest and in in explain how the situation is and then then not do that. Right. So yeah, I think there’s a lot of value in racing. And people appreciate honesty and loyalty. And I think that goes a long way. And and that’s where I’ll leave it.”
Sounds like some animosity already. O’Ward sung a different tune a day later on Rosenqvist.
“I mean, I love the guy, and I think what makes the atmosphere in the team so good to work around him is that he’s a genuine good guy, and it’s very easy to work with him,” he says. “It’s in his best interest for the whole team to do well. He won’t section himself off and kind of — in the back of his head kind of wish bad upon the other car just to do better. No, I think that’s what makes our team very special is we’re all obviously pushing each other, but we’re both working together to create a package that’s going to be easier for both of us to drive and just to get better.
“The point is to have a team that is P1 and P2, right? That’s always going to be the goal.
“I just think he fits exactly what the team of McLaren Racing and all that stands for. In order to create a team or to make a team better and drive it forward, you need complete trust and transparency when working with each other. If you don’t have that, you’ve got nothing.”
Roseqnvist also doesn’t necessarily want to leave. He’ll drive for whatever Zak Brown tells him to, but he hopes it’s an INDYCAR when it’s all said and done.
“I want to be where I’m at right now,” Rosenqvist said back in Toronto. “I think Arrow McLaren SP has pretty much become a home for me. Yeah, it’s up to Zak. He’s the man who is making the moves. Probably going to take a couple of weeks before we know more. Hopefully today (Toronto) changed something. My ambition is to keep proving it that way.”
So far he is. Rosenqvist just scored his 3rd career pole on Friday from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in going 1:10.2265-seconds in the Firestone Fast Six. 2 of Rosenqvist’s 3 career poles have come on this 2.439-mile road course.
Rosenqvist says that having such a good lap in the first round allowed him to immediately pit and save that set for the final round. As a result, he scored his 2nd pole of the season and 11th top 10 starting spot in 13 races run this year.
“It is man, I’m really enjoying myself right now,” he told me on Thursday in the shadows of the IMS victory podium. “It’s been you know, a lot these kind of things during the year happen. I’m happy. I think there’s no reason to dwell on those things. I feel like wherever we show up we’re quick. Like we’re being quick on all kind of tracks this year and that’s all you want. You want a shot to be out there fighting for wins and that seems to be not only ambition, but it seems to be the reality almost every track we go to so it’s great.”
Now, can he turn this pole into something special, – his 2nd career win in Saturday’s Gallagher Grand Prix (12 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network).
“INDYCAR, I think it’s kind of addicting in a way,” he says. “Like it’s very tough. It’s probably — I wouldn’t say like — the driver level is high everywhere in professional championships, but it’s just such a team effort to get everything right on the day in terms of setup, pit stop strategy. The driver has to be fit, he has to be focused. There’s just so many variables, and if you lose one second in a pit sequence, you’re gone. That’s your day gone.
“I think that whole thing becomes — like when you succeed and when you win a race or get a podium or whatever, it’s just something you want to do again because it’s very rewarding when you do well, but it can also be brutal when you’re struggling, as I did last year. It was a super tough season for sure.
“But yeah, I’m doing well, and I want to continue that, so yeah, hopefully I’ll stay.”