Felix Rosenqvist and Pato O’Ward provided one of the most exciting moments of the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season when the two battled to the finish in the REV Group Grand Prix at Road America on July 12.
Rosenqvist was in the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing while O’Ward was in the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet. Rosenqvist tracked down O’Ward for the race lead, passed him in the closing laps and won his first INDYCAR race.
That battle may have planted the seeds for a bigger move later in the year.
Arrow McLaren SP officials were impressed with what they saw in Rosenqvist, and the driver saw tremendous potential in the rival team.
“Maybe it was a mutual thing there where both AMSP thought about having me in the good and I thought that was a good car to be in next year,” Rosenqvist said after joining the team just a few days after the 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES finale on Oct. 25. “It’s a cool story now to have that battle with Pato. It was a really good racing. Really fun, as well.
“Hopefully, we’ll have that battle again, except both of us will be in McLaren orange.”
A fast, new tandem has been created featuring the 29-year-old Rosenqvist from Sweden and the 21-year-old O’Ward from Mexico. That combination can help propel each driver to greater accomplishments as teammates.
“Pato is open with his racing,” Rosenqvist said. “He doesn’t seem to be a guy that hides anything or play any tricks. That is important when you only have two drivers – play the same game and work well with each other to improve the car and the direction of the team.
“I think we will have fun together. I really like Pato. He seems like a really good dude.”
Rosenqvist began his INDYCAR career with Chip Ganassi Racing in 2019 with the legendary Scott Dixon as his teammate after a successful career in Europe. The two drivers meshed quite well, but it was obvious Indy 500 winner and multi-time series champion Dixon was the senior driver of the operation.
At AMSP, Rosenqvist is now the elder statesman of the team in terms of driving.
“I was the youngest driver for the previous two years, now I’m the oldest by quite a bit,” Rosenqvist said. “I need to take a leader role. I need to try to help move the team in the right direction from my experience and implicate both technical stuff and driving style and build a good relationship with Pato and the engineers. It’s going to be a different dynamic for me. It’s the next step in my career.
“I look forward to it. It’s going to go down well. We are all on the same page on the team, and it looks like it will be a good dynamic.”
Rosenqvist wasted no time developing that new role. Just one week after ending the season at Chip Ganassi Racing, Rosenqvist was testing a Chevrolet-powered car for AMSP.
It’s a time to learn new faces on the team and discover a different way of doing things. Each team has unique processes, and Rosenqvist can also bring some of his experiences from CGR to his new ride.
“I believe this is a really good fit,” Rosenqvist said. “I was really happy with how it all went down. I believe I’m very welcome to AMSP and excited to get going. I want to thank Ganassi for everything. They brought me to INDYCAR. We had a lot of good times.
“Things go forward and I’m real excited about the future.”
That includes a switch from Honda to Chevrolet. The addition of Rosenqvist can strengthen a potent Chevrolet lineup that includes the four-car Team Penske operation, the two-car Ed Carpenter Racing team and Indy 500 legend A.J. Foyt’s loyal squad, as well as Carlin Racing and its continued effort to move forward.
Rosenqvist sees tremendous potential for Arrow McLaren SP in the future. That is why he took this leap of faith to a new team for 2021.
“The progression the team has made, it brings a lot of eyeballs,” Rosenqvist said. “I pictured how I could do things for the team and where I could be with this team. Zak Brown (McLaren CEO) reached out to me and my manager, and they were keen on having me on the team, as well. I thought everything clicked. There was never anything bad with Ganassi, it was just a good opportunity that came up.
“I love this racing. That’s why I’m here. But it’s been challenging, as well. There is so much excitement and hunger for 2021.”