Looking back at all Felix Rosenqvist learned over 17 NTT IndyCar Series races, his driver coach, four-time champion and three-time Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti is mighty pleased with how sharp Chip Ganassi Racing’s Rookie of the Year has become.
“We knew he was quick from the first time he was tested,” the Scot told RACER. “When [Scott Dixon’s race engineer Chris] Simmons phoned me after the first test in Mid-Ohio a few years ago and said this kid’s very good, we knew he was going to good, but his understanding of what it takes to make a car go quicker for more than one lap has been incredible and for the season, his development on the ovals has been really impressive.”
As Franchitti sees it, there’s only one item left for the 28-year-old Swedish import to complete.
“Now he’s a contender to win a race pretty much every week,” he said. “In fact, he hasn’t won one this season, which it’s a little shocking actually, he’s been so competitive, but the drive today was bloody impressive. I mean the passes, the out laps, the wheel-to-wheel stuff, he’s fantastic. He’s done a great job to come away Rookie of the Year in a very strong rookie class. I’m proud of him. He still makes mistakes but so do the very best and most experienced in the business.”
Rosenqvist was a threat for pole position in Monterey until a spin and the subsequent penalty from IndyCar’s race control team voided his two fastest laps. Relegated to 14th in qualifying, Rosenqvist’s No. 10 Honda was a blur on Sunday as he pulled off a series of impressive passes that left him fifth overall in the Firestone Grand Prix.
“The qualifying penalty was kind of tough and I was a little bit pissed off going into this race, which probably helped me with getting through the field,” Rosenqvist said. “I think we managed to be aggressive when we needed to and then we were kind of smooth when we needed to. But it was awesome, I mean I had a couple of passes into the Corkscrew. Definitely did not forget that. Some passes into Turn 3 as well. People say you couldn’t pass — it can definitely happen so it was good fun.”
The strong close to the year also vaulted Rosenqvist from eighth after Portland to and sixth in the championship standings, directly behind Team Penske’s Will Power, and two spots behind CGR team leader Dixon.
“I wouldn’t say we actually belonged anywhere better than sixth this year. I mean, that’s good for a rookie year,” he admitted. “Scott [Dixon], Simon Pagenaud, Alex Rossi, Scott Dixon, Josef Newgarden, they definitely all did a better job on the whole season. So I think, in all fairness, we probably deserved to finish where we finished, and that’s a hell of a year I think for a rookie year. So next year we should be one step better.”
Franchitti also is pleased with an unexpected aspect of Rosenqvist’s impressive IndyCar debut.
“I think Felix has re-energized the whole team as well,” he said. “I think it’s re-energized Scott. They work together and sit and go back and forth about how to take one corner or another, and there’s constant back and forth between them, and they’re both contributing to the team’s success. So, I think he’s done a great job, and we’ll regroup and try to come back stronger next year.”
There was plenty of hype surrounding Rosenqvist coming into 2019, and he proved it was well deserved. Getting into victory lane — and closer towards the top three in points — is Rosenqvist’s next challenge, and he isn’t shy in making his rivals aware of those plans.
“They know I’m coming,” he said.