The next evolution in Felix Rosenqvist’s career comes with a transition from understudy to featured player in the NTT IndyCar Series. Arrow McLaren SP’s newest driver got his IndyCar start with Chip Ganassi Racing in 2019 as the promising rookie placed alongside reigning champion Scott Dixon, and by all accounts, the 29-year-old from Sweden shined on his debut.
With the bar set incredibly high by placing sixth in the championship — two spots behind Dixon — Rosenqvist went into 2020 riding a wave of momentum that became hard to sustain in the first half of the season. Outside of his breakthrough win for CGR, six rough races left Rosenqvist well behind his veteran benchmark. As Dixon won the first three races and held control over the championship, Rosenqvist’s year fluctuated between decent runs and disappointments.
Rumors of a change of scenery began making the rounds as Rosenqvist headed towards 11th in the championship and Dixon marched towards his sixth title; with a pending vacancy at AMSP, the idea of a fresh start held a certain appeal. Paired with the rocket-fast Pato O’Ward, the 21-year-old who captured fourth in the championship in his first full season of IndyCar racing, Rosenqvist spent two seasons learning at Dixon University and graduated with an emerging team and the breakout star of the 2020 season at the perfect time.
“It’s definitely going to be a different dynamic I think, in that sense,” he said. “In the last two years, and especially this year, it’s been a really good line-up with me, Marcus (Ericsson), and Scott. I think you couldn’t really ask for a better relationship between three drivers and there were no ego trips or arguments. I mean, me and Marcus had a little touch in St. Pete and I think that’s it. During two years, that’s all the drama it’s really been in the team.
“And yeah, I think joining up with Pato, I’m always excited to team up with younger drivers because I always believe that they are the quickest. When Pato grew up doing karting, I’m sure the level was better than when I grew up doing karting. And when he went to Indy Lights, I’m sure the level was higher than when I went to Indy Lights. Obviously, our careers have looked very different, but I really respect him. I think he can also help take me to the next level because he’s going to be super-fast. That’s what excites me mostly.”
In age and achievement, Rosenqvist is a veteran compared to O’Ward. It’s another area where he’s going from the junior member at CGR to the senior man at AMSP.
“Then, as we say, I’m going to take a different role when it comes to experience to bringing the knowledge I have from previous things in my career, like Formula E, DTM, GT cars, prototypes,” he added. “Obviously, I have a lot of experience, which I think can be helpful in certain situations to move the team forward during a race weekend or maybe even during one session to the other. Let’s say you’re struggling (in) practice one, and that you need to make a move and you have only two cars to gather data with. You need to kind of be quick with your decisions and know which direction you want to go.
“I feel like I’m going to have to contribute more than I’ve done previously because that’s sort of been Scott’s deal to lead the (CGR) team. If everything looks the way I want to next year, I think me and Pato will be as equal as possible in both performance and car development. In my experience, that’s when you have the most successful team — when both drivers bring the same amount of feedback and knowledge and speed to the team and then push each other accordingly. I think that’s what you really want to achieve. And I think that’s also the plan Arrow McLaren SP has with the driver line-up.”
Rosenqvist has a clear view of what he wants to achieve in his third IndyCar season, and first piloting the No. 7 Chevy. Take the steady stream of goodness from 2019, the peaks from 2020, blend the two and add a side of turning left.
“I will basically say my goals are the same as starting this year, where I couldn’t achieve my goals, which I have to be harsh enough to tell myself,” he said. “I want to still improve the ovals, which I did this year, but I want to improve them further. I want to score at least one more win next year. So two has to be the target. I think most of all, the lows were just too many this year.
“I think my rookie year definitely had ups and downs, but it was pretty consistent. Then this year, consistency was all… it wasn’t, basically. It was just up and down and a lot of DNFs. And I think that’s the killer in IndyCar. When you don’t finish the races, it’s just a nightmare for the season and the standings. If we can finish more races on the track, that’s going to be key and I’m sure we’re going to be successful.”