Felix Rosenqvist experienced a roller-coaster of emotions at the second NTT IndyCar Series round of the season at Circuit of the Americas (COTA), setting a blistering pace in qualifying but finishing five laps down after making contact in the race.
Picking up where he left off at the St. Petersburg season-opener, Rosenqvist continued to run near the front throughout the weekend at COTA, going a close second fastest in practice at the Austin venue.
It was in Saturday’s qualifying session, however, that Rosenqvist truly came to the fore. After easily progressing from the initial group stages, the Swede set a soaring pace in the subsequent Top 12 segment, recording a crushing 1m45.454s best to lead the way by half a second. The lap would stand as the fastest ever set in IndyCar machinery around COTA.
“It was one of the best laps of my life to be honest,” says Felix Rosenqvist. “They are never perfect, but this was as close as it gets. It’s a great testament to the pace we’ve got in the #10 NTT DATA car.”
While he later failed to replicate his eye-catching performance in the decisive Fast Six segment, running on used tyres, Rosenqvist still managed to take a strong fifth (just ahead of team-mate Scott Dixon) on the grid for Sunday’s 60-lap race.
Once there, however, Rosenqvist’s weekend got derailed, the Swede losing three places on the opening lap, suffering a mid-race pirouette, and eventually crashing out after getting pitched into a spin following contact with Canada’s James Hinchcliffe.
Rosenqvist was able to bring his Ganassi car back into the pits for repairs and later rejoined the race, although five laps down on the leaders. He was eventually classified 23rd, with team-mate Dixon 13th.
“A difficult race, and we’ll have to sit down and have a look at it,” Rosenqvist says. “We struggled on the second set of Firestone reds for some reason, and then I made a mistake and spun, which didn’t help. I’m not quite sure what happened with Hinchcliffe, but there was contact and I ended up in the wall. After that we just toured around to pick up some points. There were things to learn today and that’s what we will do ahead of the next race.”
Rosenqvist’s crash happened on lap 44 out of 60 and triggered the only caution period of the race, which in turn allowed 18-year-old Colton Herta to leapfrog the leaders and claim victory. In doing so, he became the youngest ever IndyCar race winner.
The NTT IndyCar Series season continues at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama on April 5-7.
RESULTS (TOP FIVE)
IndyCar Classic – COTA
1: Colton Herta (USA, Harding Stein.), 60 laps
2: Josef Newgarden (USA, Penske), +2.718s
3: Ryan Hunter-Reay (USA, Andretti), +3.231s
4: Graham Rahal (USA, RLL), +8.061s
5: Sebastien Bourdais (FRA, D. Coyne), +15.402s
23: Felix Rosenqvist (SWE, Ganassi), +5 laps
STANDINGS (TOP FIVE)
After 2/17 races
1: Josef Newgarden (USA, Penske), 93 p.
2: Colton Herta (USA, Harding Stein.), 75 p.
3: Scott Dixon (NZL, Ganassi), 57 p.
4: Alexander Rossi (USA, Andretti), 53 p.
5: Graham Rahal (USA, RLL), 50 p.
10: Felix Rosenqvist (SWE, Ganassi), 40 p.