With Rinus VeeKay’s removal from atop IndyCar’s free agent market in his return to Ed Carpenter Racing, who’s next on the list as a high-caliber target for teams with a seat to fill?
In one of the more remarkable twists in a silly season that’s been filled with bombshell revelations, multiple sources have confirmed to RACER that Arrow McLaren SP’s Felix Rosenqvist is not under contract with McLaren Racing beyond 2022.
This comes in the wake of a June 23 press release distributed by the McLaren team with a headline of “Felix Rosenqvist to remain with McLaren Racing from 2023” where quotes from Rosenqvist and McLaren CEO Zak Brown present the 30-year-old veteran as being off the market and destined for a return to the AMSP IndyCar team or McLaren’s upcoming FIA Formula E effort.
News broke on July 12 – days before the Toronto IndyCar race – of Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou signing to drive for McLaren Racing, and not long after, RACER learned Rosenqvist’s true availability was made known to multiple teams during the Canadian event. The overriding message said to be delivered to prospective teams was the race-winning Swede, despite all that was mentioned weeks earlier in the McLaren release, could be available for hire in the coming months.
Reached last week by RACER to ask if Rosenqvist was under contract for 2023, a McLaren Racing spokesperson declined to comment.
The exact reason behind positioning Rosenqvist as being signed to a non-existent extension is unknown. One possible angle would involve McLaren’s ongoing attempts to land Palou to replace Rosenqvist in the No. 7 Chevy and wanting to protect its opportunity to use Rosenqvist as a fallback option.
RACER understands that if Palou’s contract with Ganassi for 2023 is enforced by a federal judge, McLaren will keep Rosenqvist in IndyCar. But amid the uncertainty of whether Palou or Rosenqvist will occupy the car next season, a press release that diverts attention away from Rosenqvist as a target could, in theory, be beneficial to McLaren as the legal process plays out.
If safeguarding the potential use of Rosenqvist next year inspired a press release that gave the IndyCar paddock the impression he was already taken, the later press release announcing Palou as a McLaren signing seems to be the event that unwound the diversionary tactic.
Although the teams that met to discuss Rosenqvist’s availability did not reportedly have rides to offer, the silly season continues to evolve with conceivable openings at Andretti Autosport and other teams looking for veteran upgrades to install in current or new entries.
After Rosenqvist, the next full-time drivers who could be available include Meyer Shank Racing’s Helio Castroneves and Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware Racing’s Takuma Sato. However, in both instances, their current teams have expressed a desire to keep their drivers in place next season.
Outside of the current season-long IndyCar roster, former AMSP driver Oliver Askew, who is competing for Andretti Autosport in Formula E, is rumored to be of interest to a few IndyCar teams. To date, Askew’s return to Formula E has not been confirmed. Santino Ferrucci, who produced two top 10 results from three races this season and was prepared to stand in for Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden last weekend if needed, is another talent in search of an IndyCar opportunity.
Elsewhere, it’s a wide open race to see how many Indy Lights and F2 drivers can land the dwindling number of part- or full-time drives.