INDIANAPOLIS — Felix Rosenqvist has shown flashes. You can almost break his brief tenure with Arrow McLaren SP into two parts. Prior to the summer break last year and past.
0 top 12 starts. 0 top 10 finishes. 14 laps led in 8 races.
14 top 10 starts, 11 top 10 finishes in 19 races.
I’m not sure if Rosenqvist is a Blink 182 fan but he makes reference in a hit song that they had in to what changed this program of his No. 7 Dallara-Chevrolet around.
“Yeah, I mean, I think it’s details, as always, in racing. There’s not one major thing that is like changing everything. It’s all the small things,” said Rosenqvist.
“I think for sure, I’ve been on my A game the last seven, eight races. I think the pit crew has been on their A game. I think the engineering team has really figured out, kind of simplified our program a little bit. Seems like we have a little bit more similar car to all the street circuits we go to, to all the road courses, like instead of having like 12 different cars we have four different cars now, and that strategy seems to have really helped us in our program.
“I think last year was a whole other animal with different difficulties as an organization. I think I for sure struggled with the car last year. I wasn’t confident in the car.
“But it was a whole other bunch of things going on that I think are just sort of out now. But I think the drivability thing has probably been the main key for me. If you look back at last year, there was a couple of races where we were quick, but over a season we weren’t strong. Only on the ovals pretty much.
“Now I just feel like I can get the most out of the car like every track we go to, if it’s an oval or a street course or road course, and I feel like that’s a bigger thing for me. But together with a bunch of other things that are just working a lot better from a team standpoint.
“Yeah, it’s just — I think the team is really vibing well. We’re a young team still. There’s a lot of new things happening in McLaren and Arrow McLaren SP every day, and I feel like everything is kind of gelling a bit more every weekend, and yeah, the results are following that trend. It’s a good place to be right now.”
He’s said that a lot lately too. A good place to be. He wants to be here. He doesn’t want to leave. But does the team here in the NTT INDYCAR Series have room for him?
He said after his podium finish 3 weeks ago in Toronto that he’s going to try and make it difficult for Zak Brown to take him out of his No. 7 Dallara-Chevrolet for next season. See, the Swedish driver signed a deal back in June with McLaren Racing to remain with the organization. However, it didn’t necessarily mean that he’d remain in the NTT INDYCAR Series.
McLaren has 2 F1 seats and both are likely to be occupied by Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo next season. They have 3 INDYCAR seats and Pato O’Ward and Alexander Rossi are signed to them. They’re also starting a 2 car Formula E team as well. There’s 2 open seats on that end.
With Rosenqvist having Formula E success before his journey to INDYCAR and the addition of Alex Palou at some point, what does this do to Rosenqvist?
He’s been in limbo.
“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.”
What about after this stretch, especially after a pole last weekend in the Gallagher Grand Prix?
“It is man, I’m really enjoying myself right now,” he told me last 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.”
However, his teammate Pato O’Ward is hoping that Rosenqvist stays as his teammate.
“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.”
So what more does he need to do then to keep his seat?
“Well, it seems like he has a lot of other things to think about right now,” Rosenqvist said of Zak Brown.” Yeah, it never hurts, right, like if you’re doing well, if you’re performing — I think if you have the pace, that’s always a good thing. I don’t think it hurts.
“Obviously the conversations we had have indicated that it doesn’t really — that’s not really what it stands between, if I’m quick or not quick. But yeah, I think it’s more complex than that, let’s say, but I think it never hurts. If you’re doing well, it’s always going to help you somehow. That’s all I can do, as well. I’m just going to continue to keep my foot down and try to win races.
“The target is definitely to win races. That’s been a clear target since we kind of — as we talked about before, like the upward trend that we had. We’ve been leading races. We’ve been having poles and podiums, and naturally you want to go win the race, and I think we can do that if we just kind of do our jobs and put everything together on the same day.
“Do I think it’s going to make a difference to whether I stay or not? I don’t think so. I mean, I think it helps me every time I can prove myself, and those results — in racing, you’re always as good as your last race, and that still goes for situations like this. Even if someone is saying it doesn’t matter, it always matters. If you do well, you’re a top property, and if you don’t do well, you get overlooked pretty quickly.
“Yeah, the target doesn’t change. I think I’m just focused on winning races, and that’s going to be it for me until the end of the season.”
The next progression though for Rosenqvist is just that, a win with AMSP. He’s had fast cars and while he’s been in the top 10 more now than before, it’s all about turning those top 10’s into top 5’s and podiums.
Out of those 11 top 10’s in the last 19 starts?
2 top 5’s.
He started on the pole but had a bad pit sequence while running in the top 3 which later had a mechanical failure in Texas. He finished 21st. Strategy plays took him out of a top 5 at both Long Beach and Barber and dropped him to 11th and 16th respectively. Rain falling during the GMR Grand Prix took him out of a potential top 5 or even a podium and relegated him to 6th. A team penalty for sending him out in front of another car on pit lane in qualifying in Belle Isle dropped him to last in the starting lineup. He’d still get up to 10th. Mid-Ohio he had an engine problem while running in the top 5. He crashed in Race 1 at Iowa and had a brake problem at Indy out of his control to drop him from first to 9th.
“I don’t think we’ve been very consistent,” he says. “We’re still having a lot of issues. Like Indy GP, Iowa, Mid-Ohio, we had all those races actually had mechanical issues that cost us a lot of points. I wouldn’t sit here and say that we’re like on a massive roll because we’re still not winning races.
“But yeah, the performance is good. We’re there pace-wise every weekend pretty much since Indy GP, the first one. Oval, street course, road course. So I think that’s obviously a massive step.
“As I said before, it’s all like details. I definitely feel like I’m comfortable with the car. I’m in a good rhythm with the car. Just I feel confident to throw down a lap whenever. I feel like as a team we’re working better and better together. We’re starting to understand a lot of things.
“I think as a two-car team, it’s been a lot of, like, research and development done during the weekends where mainly you kind of want to focus on driving, but we’ve been more focused on trying different setups and stuff, and now we’re kind of getting to a point we have so much data from trying a bunch of things that we can go into weekends — like Indy GP, for example, we went in and we knew exactly where we wanted to be instead of going into like experimental mode in practice.
“I feel like that’s going to be more the case going forward now. It’s going to be more and more — like we’re going in with more and more confidence on the engineering side into the weekends, and hopefully we’ll see better — keep doing better and better results.”