There may be no other driver that endured more during the 2022 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season than Felix Rosenqvist.
The “Cerebral Swede” was the centerpiece of Silly Season, with uncertainty surrounding his future standing at Arrow McLaren SP seemingly intertwined with 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion and current Chip Ganassi Racing driver Alex Palou.
Drama started in late June when Rosenqvist was re-signed to McLaren Racing, with no team named for the 2023 season. Then McLaren and Chip Ganassi Racing got into a tug-of-love over Palou in July, with both teams laying claim to his services for next season and Rosenqvist’s future spot – presumed to be either in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES or Formula E – still hanging in the balance.
Finally, it was announced Sept. 14 that Palou was staying with CGR next season and that Rosenqvist would remain in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES with Arrow McLaren SP in 2023 with existing teammate Pato O’Ward and new teammate Alexander Rossi.
During his summer of uncertainty, Rosenqvist rattled off one podium finish, two top fives, six top 10s and one pole over to finish eighth in the championship standings, directly behind teammate Pato O’Ward. Those results helped keep Rosenqvist where he wanted to stay – in INDYCAR.
“I think when you're in the middle of it, you just look forward and you know what's in the toolbox of things you can change, the things you can do,” said Rosenqvist, 31. “I had a pretty good conversation with the team during it all. Even if it kind of looked crazy from the outside, there wasn't really a sense of panic, from my side at least. Maybe that's where the Scandinavian side comes into play when you're cool, calm and collected in those scenarios. I don't know, man. I think it brought some focus out of me that I maybe didn't have before.
“So, in a weird way it was probably all for the better. Like, it was a crazy year, but it was also like a good crazy. It was fun and everything felt really rewarding, and once the deal came into place after the Laguna weekend, it just felt really good to stay with the team and stay on for another year and continue to prove myself in INDYCAR.”
While uncertainty surrounded Rosenqvist and his team, they managed to block out the noise and rally together. In many ways, 2019 NTT INDYCAR SERIES Rookie of the Year Rosenqvist credits the situation for helping bring the team closer together.
“When there's so many moving pieces, I think you improve the ways you communicate and you realize the importance of communication,” Rosenqvist said. “I just feel like after it all settled, we were all way stronger than we were before, in a way. It's weird because as time goes, this whole thing basically takes place over the course of like four months and at the same time you have your season happening, that goes really fast and you're growing as a driver, you're growing as a person, and it all transpired in a good way and yeah, here we are.
“I don't regret anything. I think in a weird way, like everything happens for a reason, and I was very happy how it all came together.”
In many ways, the 2022 season was a return to form for Rosenqvist, bouncing back from a lowly 21st in the overall standings in a 2021 campaign that only featured two top 10s and an additional two races missed after a hard crash in the opening race of the doubleheader at Belle Isle.
“After '21, my confidence wasn't super high,” Rosenqvist said. “Eventually, when I have a year like that, when everything kind of goes against you, you lose a bunch of confidence. We came together as a team, we sat down and said, 'What do we need to improve?
“I think the main thing was just the handling of the car was in a realm where I couldn't be confident with it. Together with Chevy, we did some really good work in offseason and day one, when we came to Sebring for the preseason testing, I could just feel like, 'Man, now we're in the window.’”
Confidence followed, and the team started diagnosing other key areas of need. The run of improvements led to a positive chain reaction that was evident right out of the gate.
The grind and effort over the offseason was rewarded early as Rosenqvist snatched the NTT P1 Award in just the second race of the season, in March at Texas Motor Speedway. He was also a mainstay among the top 10 in the 106th Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, being in the mix for victory on a late restart before settling for fourth.
“That's why I'm really excited for '23 because starting '22 where we're still, in a way you're always continuing where you left off the year before, and that wasn't a really bad place,” Rosenqvist said. “Coming into '23, leaving basically on a high from '22, it's really exciting for all of us because we know we're in a much better starting place. We put in the same amount of effort as we did '21 to '22 in this offseason to improve the little gains we can find here and there to be able to take it to the next level. We went from 21st to eighth, and now we want to continue that journey closer to the top.
“So, yeah, once things start to get in the right place, it's a momentum thing. It's like in any sport, when you do bad, it's very easy to go in a spiral and we do well it's all about momentum.”
Despite returning for another year, there will be some differences in 2023.
Rosenqvist will switch to Arrow McLaren SP’s No. 6 Chevrolet, with the addition of Rossi coming from Andretti Autosport to take the reins of the No. 7 entry Rosenqvist drove the past two years.
Overall, Rosenqvist and Co. already are hard at work on shoring up other areas of need for next year.
“I think on the car side there's a few things we want to fix, but we feel very competitive on road courses and super-speedways,” said Rosenqvist, who has one win in 62 INDYCAR SERIES starts. “I think, personally, short ovals are probably my weakest category right now, where I want to basically make the same step as I did on the super-speedways. Then, as a team we're struggling a little bit on the street courses, just in pure performance. So, take a good swing of that. We already have some really good ideas how to bridge those gaps.
“Always there's details, there's no massive thing when you're inside a top 10, there's basically all micros where you're trying to find performance. Obviously, the most important thing is that the driver is confident, that the driver is happy and motivated, and I can definitely say I'm that. From there on, it's just getting together as a team and trying to chip away at the little things.”