NASHVILLE, Tenn — A new name has popped up in this ever evolving landscape of the NTT INDYCAR Series Silly Season — Felix Rosenqvist. Yes, the same driver who McLaren announced this past June that had a new deal in place to remain with the team in some manner for 2023 and beyond. It was announced at the time that a multi-year deal was agreed upon. However, the caveat to that all was, it wasn’t necessarily a contract to remain in INDYCAR.
It was just that, a contract but there was a possibility that Rosenqvist could get moved to the new Formula E team McLaren was forming. The 30-year old driver had previous Formula E success and with Zak Brown wanting a veteran to help get this team off the ground, it made the most sense that 2022 would be Rosenqvist’s last here in INDYCAR.
A statement read this past June, “McLaren Racing is currently in the process of evaluating its driver line-ups for 2023 with the newly formed McLaren Formula E Team set to embark on its debut season in the all-electric racing series and plans to expand Arrow McLaren SP into a three-car team with Felix set to be driving in one of the two series.”
“I’m delighted to be continuing our relationship with Felix,” said Zak Brown. “He’s a fantastic racer, with a lot of experience in many different types of racing cars. As a proven race winner in both categories, it was important for us to secure his talent within the McLaren Racing family as we work to finalize our plans for 2023. His experience in Formula E would be invaluable as we head into this exciting new era of racing for McLaren Racing but he has also made a fantastic contribution to our IndyCar team. I look forward to working together with him to finalize the best opportunity for him next season.”
Rosenqvist’s racing career also includes a stint in Formula E, having raced in the series for three seasons from 2016 to 2019, winning three races, securing six pole positions and seven podiums.
“I’m delighted to be remaining with McLaren for 2023 and beyond,” Rosenqvist said. “With the team expanding into Formula E next season, it provides additional opportunities for me both in the USA and Europe and I look forward to being in a position to announce my plans in the coming weeks. I’ve loved my time with the Arrow McLaren SP Team in IndyCar driving the No. 7 car and we’ve had some great moments together, including securing pole earlier this year in Texas and coming home P4 in the Indy 500. I’m excited and grateful to be given this opportunity to explore the new options available to utilize my experience to help McLaren start 2023 on the strongest possible footing.”
That wording made it seem that Rosenqvist’s destination would likely land in Formula E.
However, that may have all changed. In fact, it may have done a complete 180.
Last month it seemed like Alex Palou would be the one replacing Rosenqvist. Then came the bombshell that Ganassi held his rights and that this would be taken to federal courts. The next rumor was that Callum Ilott or Rinus VeeKay would land in this seat. Both signed with the current respective teams to new longer term contracts.
Could Rosenqvist now stay put? His teammate hopes so.
“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,” his current teammate Pato O’Ward 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.”
He’s vouching for him, what about Rosenqvist?
“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.”
However, word is and RACER was the first to report it, that Rosenqvist may not be all that tied to McLaren after this season after all. That June announcement could have just been all smoke and mirrors to keep him away from other teams. Now that other teams are exploring this, maybe Rosenqvist could land elsewhere to keep him in INDYCAR.
It’s not a secret, he’d prefer to stay here. He doesn’t want to go back to Formula E if he has a choice in this and now maybe he does after all.
“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.”
Rosenqvist told me this past June that while the results weren’t necessarily reflecting it, he felt like he was driving a good now as ever before.
“Right now I’m driving the best I’ve done in INDYCAR for sure,” he told me during the Indy test back at the end of June. “But again, we want more. As a team we want more. As a driver I want more. We want to move up from top 10’s to a consistent top 5. We all know that we can’t do that every weekend. It’s already a good achievement and some times you have to score the big points as well and I think that’s kind of our next objective.”
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.”
With a potential option to not to go Formula E, what he’s saying about INDYCAR and how he’s driving now, any team with a potential opening has already likely reached out to Rosenqvist. I go back to what he told me just a couple of days ago about if he knows what the language says on the documents he signed with McLaren.
“Yeah, your name is on it, right, so you have to know exactly what you’re signing,” he says. “It seems like in these cases maybe that wasn’t the case.
“It’s always complicated. You don’t know all the details. But it’s definitely interesting. It makes you think of what can be different.
“Yeah, I mean, whenever you sign a contract you’re always — first of all, you actually sign it, which is you’re obliged to follow what it says.”
Maybe he did for a period of time but that new period of time allows him to talk to other teams. Maybe he’s sick of all this McLaren drama and wants to not only stay here and but do with someone else…
This has just gotten sillier.