until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Rosenqvist makes McLaren’s driver puzzle even more complicated

by Jack Benyon
6 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Felix Rosenqvist might have been a forgotten man last week as his McLaren team announced signing Alex Palou just after the IndyCar champion’s current team Chip Ganassi Racing confirmed it had extended his contract.

Although McLaren didn’t state where Palou would race, IndyCar seems like the obvious option, seemingly consigning Rosenqvist to a Formula E return.

McLaren has signed Rosenqvist for next year but its CEO Zak Brown hasn’t said where he will race. And if McLaren succeeds in getting Palou, its expanded three-car IndyCar line-up is full as it’s already hired Alexander Rossi from Andretti Autosport and extended Pato O’Ward’s contract.

But when asked by The Race if the Palou news made it more likely he was heading back to Formula E to spearhead McLaren’s debut there, Rosenqvist’s reply was punchy.

“By the sound of it, it doesn’t sound like Alex has…I mean, I don’t know what’s going on there,” Rosenqvist replied.

“At the moment it doesn’t sound like he’s going to race at all. Yeah, it’s up to lawyers and stuff.

“Honestly it’s not my business at all.

“I think honestly it hasn’t really changed anything.

“This whole deal went down months ago. I didn’t know all the details of it that I know now, but nothing has actually changed.

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“I think if Zak was sure I was going to FE, he would have already said it.

“I’m going to take that chance. If there’s a chance for me to be here next year, I’m going to try to prove I can do that.”

It seems Rosenqvist and Palou’s career paths are constantly entwined as Palou replaced Rosenqvist at Ganassi for 2021 and promptly won the title.

But think again if you reckon Palou’s about to do the same at McLaren.

Palou not racing at all next year is not an outcome that has been regularly discussed, and something which is an extremely interesting possibility for next season.

Ganassi still claims it has Palou under contract and he’ll be racing there next year so there is no easy answer to what happens next, but Rosenqvist is doing everything right.

Last weekend he bagged his first podium with Arrow McLaren SP. In 2021 he struggled to adapt to the car’s handling, which team-mate O’Ward had described as one of the fastest but most difficult to drive cars on the grid.

Refocused for 2022 Rosenqvist has been much better himself and if not for a couple of small errors and some team mistakes too, he may well have been in the top eight in the points. Especially if he had added a podium at Mid-Ohio last time out which is where he was running before an engine issue.

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A fourth at the Indianapolis 500 was impressive as well and came amid a run of four top 10s which might have been six with Mid-Ohio not ruining it.

It’s all happening via relaxed Rosenqvist being more at home with the car this year and improvements in-season from his pit crew, which has had its struggles.

“It was massively overdue,” added Rosenqvist on the podium.

“We had so many good races. Even last year when we had such a struggle year, we still had times where we were fighting for wins. Just things end up happening.

“Mid-Ohio was pretty much a perfect race until we had a technical failure that ended our race. Texas earlier this year. Just so many races. Obviously I don’t like to say what could have happened.

“I think everyone on the team was ready for at least a podium, and also a win coming up here soon hopefully. Yeah, really, really good.

“Really good just for the guys on the car to give them something more than P4 or P5.”

Craig Hampson has engineered Rosenqvist and certainly helped this year, while drivability upgrades from Chevrolet were a nice surprise for 2022 and have helped Rosenqvist in particular, even if there were some initial teething issues.

Qualifying has also been a step forward as he sits inside the top five in terms of average starting position in the series.

He started eighth in Toronto and made up two places in the early running. But the pivotal point of his race was passing Rossi while battling for a top five at the time – a move that ended with Rossi in the wall.

Rossi stopped short of lashing out at Rosenqvist for the incident and Rosenqvist didn’t believe it was his fault saying “he ran into my sidepod, probably lost a wheel and hit the wall”.

“Obviously, I don’t want to see him in the wall, but it was just a hard pass, hard racing,” he added.

“There wasn’t a penalty, so I think that kind of explains everything.”

It allowed him to work forward and fight Colton Herta – who was struggling with a ripped balaclava and hair in his eyes – for second, getting right to the back of Herta but not able to make a move. Herta graciously admitted he believed Rosenqvist would make it through if there were a few more laps in the race.

Ultimately results like this can’t hurt Rosenqvist’s quest for his preferred option of staying in IndyCar over being moved to Formula E, where he is also a race winner.

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His McLaren contract confirms where he wants to be, even if his result inspired a passionate endorsement from Graham Rahal – who said he would like to sign Rosenqvist for Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s 2023 IndyCar line-up if he could.

That’s something which Rosenqvist addressed when asked if he could still race for another team in the series next year.

“That’s entirely a question for Zak,” Rosenqvist said.

“I’ve made my point that I’m very happy with the team. 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 pitstops. I think I’m able to extract most out of the car most weekends now.

“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.”

Hi recent performances have certainly given Brown a headache, or if Palou is going to be sidelined for a while, a wonderful option for the future.

As well as his pace, Rosenqvist brings a charisma to the team which is strong but not overpowering. You never hear a bad word said about Rosenqvist or his work ethic inside the team and it’s clear everyone on the Indianapolis side loves having him onboard.

Perhaps they have a chance to keep him yet.

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