Mike Hull expects big things from Chip Ganassi Racing’s new IndyCar Series rookie. A winner in almost every series he’s driven, Felix Rosenqvist could, in Hull’s estimation, mirror IndyCar’s most recent mercurial newcomer by the end of 2019.
“Maybe we should use Robert Wickens as a fair comparison,” CGR’s managing director said. “Robert Wickens came from a very similar background to Felix. Although the last several years of [Wickens’] learning curve were DTM, [it] still a very competitive atmosphere on a quality team and against quality teams and quality race drivers.”
Taking their vast junior open-wheel and sports car racing experience into account, there’s every reason to believe Rosenqvist – who turns 27 later this year – will perform like a young veteran in the same way 29-year-old Wickens demonstrated with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
“Robert had his ups and downs this year on the race track, but he had a lot of ups,” Hull continued. “And I think if [a rookie] driver can do what Robert Wickens did in his first full year… [Felix is] going to make mistakes. He’s going to hit other people. He’s going to hit the fence. But if you do it when you’re going fast, I think that’s OK. Because that’s the learning curve.
“The learning curve is only enhanced by the fact that you run fast and finish the race. Wickens almost won the first race he was in at St. Petersburg. He did a heck of a job there. He woke people up to the fact that there’s young talent that honed their skills in places other than the ladder system in the United States.”
Rosenqvist has been a top priority for the defending champions since he was invited to test for the team at Mid-Ohio in 2016. Despite an unsuccessful attempt to sign him for the No. 10 Honda at the end of 2017, the inbound Swede remained at the top of CGR’s acquisition list.
“He was worth the wait,” Hull said. “If you want to really put a timeline on it, it started three years ago for us. That’s when we started talking with Felix Rosenqvist. That’s when we ran him in our car the first time. So, the process took three years, in reality.”
With diverse experience in GTs and prototypes, Rosenqvist would seem like a perfect fit for the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing IMSA GT Le Mans program. Many of CGR’s IndyCar and NASCAR drivers have been imported to participate at endurance races from Daytona to Le Mans over the years, but at this moment, Hull isn’t ready to fill the rookie’s calendar with extracurricular activities.
“Right now, Felix is signed to drive an IndyCar,” he said. “We do have sports cars, but at this point, I don’t know the opportunities that exist for us. We’re involved with a factory Ford program, and those drivers are set.”