Chip Ganassi has been impressed by rookie Felix Rosenqvist’s speed in four starts this NTT IndyCar Series season.
When assessing how the 27-year-old driver from Sweden (shown above) needs to improve, the successful owner quotes a rival.
“He’s doing really well,” Ganassi said. “Like my old friend Roger Penske said one time and he’s right, ‘It’s easier to slow ‘em down than speed ‘em up.’ He needs to be slowed down just a tick. But he’s fine.”
The observation was made on the April 14 morning of the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, a day after Rosenqvist was on the verge of qualifying in the Firestone Fast Six before losing control and ending up in a tire barrier in Turn 9. As a result, he forfeited his two quickest qualifying laps and had to start 12th. He finished 10th in the race.
Rosenqvist also had to veer wide into a runoff during practice.
“It’s obvious if the guy is in the runoff a couple times a weekend, you need to slow him down a little,” Ganassi said.
The 2015 European Formula 3 champion started this season impressively by qualifying third and finishing fourth in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
He qualified fifth for the INDYCAR Classic at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, but made contact with James Hinchcliffe and crashed out in 23rd. He qualified 17th and finished 10th in the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.
“I’ve had the really good speed,” Rosenqvist said last week during a Honda manufacturer test on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in preparation for Saturday’s INDYCAR Grand Prix. “I think there’s a lot of will to get a good result. Long Beach, we were fast, but the field was so tight. You had to be so close to the limit to be faster. Then, you know, obviously mistakes come as well.
“Long Beach, all weekend was kind of a lot of mistakes on my side, a lot of (brakes) lock-ups, a lot of time in the runoffs. That’s what you don’t really want. If you keep doing that, you lose your confidence and then you don’t really know what you’re doing to put a lap together. That’s something we learned. Take it a bit slower and trust that I’m quick and the car is quick and it’s going to work.”
Ganassi doesn’t sound overly concerned.
“If he didn’t impress me, he wouldn’t be here,” the owner said. “I think he’s got a win in him this year. Oh yeah, or two. I don’t want to say that’s my expectation. I would say it wouldn’t surprise me.”
Rosenqvist is 12th in the points entering Saturday’s race. He raced on the IMS road course in Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, finishing fourth and sixth in 2016.
When asked if Rosenqvist reminds him of any of his former drivers, Ganassi had pretty lofty praise, mentioning former champions Alex Zanardi and Juan Pablo Montoya. Zanardi won CART championships in 1997 and 1998; Montoya won the title in 1999. Montoya also won his first of two Indianapolis 500 victories with Ganassi in 2000.
“I can tell you this, Zanardi and Montoya hit a lot of fences and a lot of walls with this team,” Ganassi said. “Everybody forgets that. Zanardi – I love him like a brother – but he hit every wall there was to hit on every oval, OK? He did. Thank God, I was the Reynard (chassis manufacturer) importer at the time and I got my parts cheap.”
Rosenqvist has shown the kind of speed to suggest he will earn his share of opportunities to contend for race wins if he can learn from his mistakes.
“Being in the ballpark isn’t his problem,” Ganassi said.
INDYCAR Grand Prix practices are set for 9:10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. ET Friday, with both streaming live on INDYCAR Pass on NBC Sports Gold. NTT P1 Award qualifying takes place later that day, at 4:35 p.m., and airs live on NBCSN and INDYCAR Pass.
The race-morning warmup practice begins at 11:15 a.m. Saturday and streams on INDYCAR Pass. Live race coverages begins at 3 p.m. Saturday on NBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.
INDYCAR Pass is offering a discounted rate of $39.99 for new subscribers for the remainder of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season.