By David Morgan, Associate Editor
A lot of noise has surrounded Arrow McLaren SP this week, but Sunday in Toronto, Felix Rosenqvist made noise where it counted – on-track.
After starting in eighth place, Rosenqvist moved into the top-five in short order and held steady near the front of the field for much of the race, eventually cycling into the top-three during the final caution period of the day.
While Scott Dixon pulled away for the win, Rosenqvist and Colton Herta staged a thrilling battle for second over the final stint of the race, crossing the line in third place when the checkered flag fell to claim his first podium finish since June 2020, and his first podium finish while driving for Arrow McLaren SP.
“It’s been a good weekend,” Rosenqvist said. “A good race, as well. I don’t think we’ve been the fastest all weekend, but I just did the basics right.
“I think we did a good lap in qualify, got us to P8. Then the strategy in the race. Obviously in Toronto it’s hard to pass. The plan was if you have an opportunity, try to pass, nail the pit stops…
“We were saving a lot of fuel early on. It looked like we were going to have a big advantage there at the end. That last yellow kind of played into Colton and Scott’s favor. Congrats to Scott, by the way. Good to see him back on the P1.
“I think it was a fun race. Good, hard battles out there on a good, hard track. Very physical. Very warm. Yeah, no, good fun.”
Rosenqvist’s race wasn’t all cut and dry as he tangled with Alexander Rossi on Lap 45, sending the current Andretti Autosport and future McLaren driver into the wall, which brought Rossi’s race to an early end.
“I mean, I had a good run,” Rosenqvist explained. “He looked a bit weak in the braking on three. I did kind of a little surprise move. Was fairly far up by the time we turned in. I kind of thought that he had already given up on the corner. I just saw him, like, hang around the outside. I was like, Okay. I mean, fair play if you want to try to go around outside. At some point you run out of road.
“I think he probably bumped his wheel or something. That’s kind of what it felt like. He ran into my side pod, probably lost a wheel and hit the wall.
“I don’t know if it was fair play, to be honest. He normally races hard. I’ve been racing him previously where it’s been to his advantage in that situation and I’ve lost a bunch of spots. Today he lost his race.
“Obviously, I don’t want to see him in the wall, but it was just a hard pass, hard racing. There wasn’t a penalty, so I think that kind of explains everything.”
With Sunday’s podium finish in the bag, Rosenqvist will now turn his attention to keeping up the same performance over the course of the final seven races of the season in an effort to secure his place with the team going forward.
Back in June, it was announced that McLaren had resigned Rosenqvist, but where exactly he would be within the team was not specified, leaving open the possibility that he could be racing somewhere other than the NTT IndyCar Series in 2023.
McLaren previously announced that Pato O’Ward and Alexander Rossi would occupy two of the team’s IndyCar seats next year, with Rosenqvist in the mix for the third seat.
This week’s news that McLaren had signed defending series champion Alex Palou to the organization muddied the waters, but Rosenqvist is hoping Sunday’s finish helped swing the pendulum back in his favor.
“I’ve made my point that I’m very happy with the team,” Rosenqvist said. “I think it shows, a super group. I think we worked hard the last two years to kind of build up a very strong team. We have good strategy, good pit stops. I think I’m able to extract most out of the car most weekends now.
“Yeah, I think if you asked me end of last year, obviously it would have been a different answer. But right now I’m just very happy where I’m at. I think I would be crazy if I said I wanted to go somewhere else.
“You always have to be thankful for every opportunity you have. Sort of like an (indiscernible) in motorsports if it’s here, Europe, Japan, whatever. It’s a few drivers in the world that get to do that.
“I want to be where I’m at right now. Yeah, I think Arrow McLaren SP has pretty much become a home for me.
“It’s up to Zak [Brown, McLaren CEO]. He’s the man who is making the moves. Probably going to take a couple weeks before we know more. Hopefully today changed something. My ambition is to keep proving it that way.”