Photo: Action Sports Photography, Inc.

Rough Stretch Hasn’t Dashed Rosenqvist’s Optimism

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

INDIANAPOLIS – Five races into the NTT IndyCar Series campaign, Arrow McLaren SP’s No. 7 team have struggled. This isn’t new for this particular squad. Last year, Oliver Askew was barely hanging onto the top-20 in points. This year, more of the same with Felix Rosenqvist.

Only difference is that the Swede racer hasn’t quite sealed the deal. The pace has been there, but not the ideal results compared to last year. He was ninth in points after five races with Chip Ganassi Racing.

Pato O’Ward, whom Rosenqvist beat for his only IndyCar win at Road America II last year, already won this season at Texas II. To make matters worse, O’Ward is fighting for a championship and signs being shown that McLaren has strapped the rocket ship to be their guy.

Fortunately for Rosenqvist, there’s double points on the line in Sunday’s 105th Indianapolis 500. A much needed result could boost him up into the championship table.

Motorsports Tribune asked if a win at Indy would boost his confidence and prove to the team that ‘Hey, Pato might’ve, won but I can win too. That’s why I’m driving for McLaren!’

“Exactly,” Rosenqvist replied.

“I think it’s a place we have a shot at winning. It’s the ambition of the whole team to get a first win here. We worked very hard for this weekend and I think we have a really good product.”

With Carb Day being threatened by weather, Rosenqvist hopes valuable track time can be fulfilled. Even if it’s a wash, he won’t sleep over it because his car is ready for Sunday. Helps that this weekend’s conditions will have more grip due to its cooler temperatures.

“I don’t think that will be a massive panic in this case,” Rosenqvist commented. “If it was the opposite that it was going to get hotter during the race than what it’s been during practice. That’s quite frightening for everyone because the car just gets worse as it’s warmer.

“But the fact that it’s going to get colder I think is nice because it kind of covers up things. Like if you have any faults in your car, it’s going to get better. I feel like we know what we have and we’re ready to go.”

Cooler temperatures can create some concerns on how much downforce can be taken out. Sometimes, if you take out too much, then the car will have hard times. Downforce then becomes a game of psychology, according to Rosenqvist.

“If everyone takes it off, then might it be better to stay with a higher one or should they’ve taken off even more,” Rosenqvist questioned.

“I feel like that game is it’s played even if the temperature would stay. When you look at the grid and you might make a last change last minute. Like you can play the safe game and kind of copy what everyone is doing. Maybe you make a bold move, take off a bit more. We’ll see what happens. It’s interesting for sure.”

In spite of not having the best start to his third year in IndyCar, Rosenqvist still embraces the transition from Ganassi to McLaren. Impressed with the team’s preparation mindset, which he felt is next level. Right now, it’s just a matter of eliminating problems that been present. Not just for the No. 7 team, but the multi-car organization as a whole.

“I think the thing we’re missing is we don’t have the experience to fall back on of winning a lot of races. That’s what we’re trying to learn,” said Rosenqvist.

“Pato won in Texas and I think that’s just the first of many to come for our team. The hard thing in IndyCar now is when you make a big push, as we’ve done as a team, there’s not really a lot of areas where you can try things. There’s not a lot of testing. The weekend is shorter than it used to be.

“So, it’s hard to improve, but you can definitely see the trend that we’re coming and we’re getting there. I’m sure we were only going to go better from here on.”

In Rosenqvist’s eyes, the most frustrating part of his 2021 season have been the lack of results. If you were to ask him his best overall races of his career, the Texas doubleheader would be it.

“I think we had two really good shots of actually winning the races in Texas. Unfortunately, that got thrown away with a pit sequences,” said Rosenqist. “Road course performance has been a bit hit or miss. There’s definitely things to work on.”

Best thing he’s learned from frustrating weekends where strong points day went sour is moving forward.

“I’ve kind of learned that it doesn’t help to get frustrated. You just have to move on and look for the next race,” said Rosenqvist. “Look at what you’re doing, be calm and things are going to go your way.

“It’s not only me struggling. Look at like Penske of where they’re at during the Month of May. They must be going through the same thing. It’s just one of the things you have to keep your head down. Results are going to come if you do a good job.”

That said, the optimism for his new team is apparent. Rosenqvist knows the organization is different, but it also suits his style quite well. Like it was his European racing career all over again.

“I don’t want to sit here and tell secrets about things, but I really respect Ganassi. They’re one of the most successful teams on the grid here,” Rosenqvist on Ganassi, who he drove from 2019-2020.

“The different dynamic in our team is that there’s a lot of hunger,” Rosenqvist on Arrow McLaren’s ambitions. “There’s a lot of will to try new things. There’s a lot of push, especially engineering wise. There’s some big push on like simulation, trying to just bring new ways to beat the others.”

With certain ambitions comes caveats such as making most out of limited track time. A team can have all the resources and personnel, but quick turnarounds requires patience. That’s where the vibe is at in spite of a tough stretch.

“We have great partners. We have great engineers. We have basically everything you need to go and beat the others, but we don’t have any practice to try things,” said Rosenqvist. “We got two days of testing on road courses in the winter, and then the weekends are shortened up. You still kind of have to go back every week and then start where you left last year.

“Then you can hopefully develop a little bit, and then the weekend is over. No matter how quick you want to make this transition into a front running team, it takes time. That’s what we’re facing.

“I’m super happy with like how I’m feeling and this organization and how I’m working with my engineers and my mechanics. I couldn’t have asked for a better team around me. It’s been so flawless.”

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media and a four-time National Motorsports Press Association award winner in photography. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. Over the years, Luis has focused on writing, video and photography with ambitions of having his work recognized.