It says a lot when Felix Rosenqvist was a little disappointed after qualifying fifth for Sunday’s INDYCAR Classic at COTA.
That’s because he was a half second clear of everyone during the second round of qualifying. But his run on used red tires in the Fast Six wasn’t as good (or eye-opening) as his flyer on the new optional Firestones, so the IndyCar rookie had to settle for Row 3.
“Yeah, a little bit bittersweet for sure. I think especially after the second shootout there, I think my mindset was definitely on the pole,” said Rosenqvist, who started third in his IndyCar debut at St. Petersburg. “But, when you put on the second set or the used set of reds, you never really know what you’re going to get. Our car was really brilliant on new tires and Will [Power]’s came alive on used ones.
“Still, it was a great day. We were up there again and we were in the Firestone Fast Six for the second time in two weekends, so cannot complain about that.”
The impressive thing about the 27-year-old Swede is not only his pace but his unassuming attitude. He’s not your average rookie — he’s outqualified teammate Scott Dixon twice and is battling with Team Penske’s Power and Josef Newgarden as well as the Andretti armada. Yet he appears quite unaffected.
Here’s what he said when RACER’s Marshall Pruett asked him about all the fast company he’s been keeping:
“I think it comes naturally to any driver that when you have the pace, you’re looking at the scoreboard and all you see is numbers,” he responded. “You don’t really see No. 12 or No. 88. It’s just numbers in the end and lap times.
“I think when you sit on the plane going back home, that’s when you sort of realize, ‘Oh wow, we did a pretty good job today.’ But when you’re driving, you’re just doing your job and trying to focus.
“So it’s been good, you know?”
Veteran Julian Robertson is Felix’s engineer and they’ve already developed some chemistry.
“It’s taken a couple of months for Julian to understand what I need and for me to understand what I need to do to make things better,” said Rosenqvist, who led 31 laps at St. Pete and would have likely won the race had he not had a couple hiccups in the pits. “I’d say up until this phase he’s just been … I’ve just been trying to extract the best of myself. Like in St. Pete, I was just like, ‘OK, don’t touch anything.’ I’m just trying to do a good lap. I don’t care what the car is doing, I’m just gonna drive it.”
In the previous 10 series he’s competed in, Rosenqvist has never experienced anything like IndyCar’s elimination system for qualifying.
“I think it’s a fun qualifying. It’s almost like you want it to be done after the first stage and then you do it again three times. It’s good. It’s fun that it can change around. It’s not like someone is first every run. It’s always different and so we’re ending up first in the end, and yeah, it’s a good system for sure. I think it’s great.”
Just like his results so far.