until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


McLaren makes another major IndyCar line-up change

by Jack Benyon
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Arrow McLaren has continued its driver hiring and firing spree by adding ex-Alpine Formula 1 junior and IndyCar race winner Christian Lundgaard to its line-up in place of Alexander Rossi for 2025.

McLaren has had a whirlwind 2024, which started with an injured David Malukas needing a substitute before he’d raced for the team and Theo Pourchaire and Callum Ilott stepping in for multiple races.

Pourchaire was the announced as the permanent replacement for Malukas - who has since returned to IndyCar with the Meyer Shank team - for the rest of the season after the Indianapolis 500, only for Indy NXT driver Nolan Siegel to be installed in Pourchaire’s place ahead of the most recent race at Laguna Seca.

Now, despite Rossi’s strong form in his second season with the team his contract will not be renewed and Lundgaard has been signed from Rahal Letterman Lanigan to drive the #7 car.

"We were not able to come to terms on a new deal, so the mutual decision to part ways is amicable," said Rossi.

Lundgaard's IndyCar path to McLaren

Lundgaard impressed in a one-off for Rahal at the Indianapolis road course race in August 2021 while still part of the Alpine fold, and joined the RLL team full-time the following year.

He scored his first IndyCar podium at the same track in his rookie year before becoming the team’s top scorer with eighth in the championship in 2023.

That was boosted by a breakthrough win at the Toronto street circuit, along with three further top-five finishes in a year that marked him out as one of the best young drivers in the series.

Rossi's uptick not enough

After Josef Newgarden signed a contract extension at Team Penske, Lungaard was always going to be the hottest property on the market.

It had looked like he would be staying put as McLaren appeared to be keeping Rossi.

However, there's been a clear shift in the last month or so - during which Rossi bagged a podium and three top fives in four races, with a wastegate issue at Road America that was out of his hands the only exception - and McLaren has now decided to go in a different direction.

McLaren CEO Zak Brown is believed to be a big fan of Lundgaard, although he did say of Rossi just before the Indy 500 - which kickstarted that aforementioned run of top fives - that “I think he's doing a great job” and “I really rate Alex Rossi".

Rossi won the 2016 Indianapolis 500 as a rookie and he was a seven-time race winner (and has added one more since) when he became IndyCar’s hottest property on the silly season market in 2019, with Penske showing interest.

He ultimately stayed at Andretti, until the end of 2022 when he announced he had signed for McLaren.

He finished ninth in the points in his first season there with six top fives, and sits seventh in the standings this year - 10 points behind team leader Pato O'Ward.

Rossi has had two major issues in races in 2024 - the wastegate at Road America and a wheel falling off after a pitstop at Barber - but those aside his worst finish of the year is 10th at Long Beach, where he rebounded from being rear-ended by O’Ward.

A straight swap?

It’s not clear if Rahal would be interested in snapping up Rossi.

Bobby Rahal would no doubt love to have an Indy 500 winner back within his driver line-up full-time after some difficult years at the speedway. But Juri Vips impressed the team in his outings last year and would likely be a more cost-effective option.

Pourchaire could also be an option for Rahal, as could Ilott and Indy NXT leader Louis Foster - if he follows through and wins the championship - to name a few.

With no other openings likely at Penske, Andretti, Ganassi or McLaren, Rahal's vacancy becomes the best seat available for the 2025 season.

Rossi said he was "very confident" of being able to "land a new spot" on the grid.

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