With the opening round of the 2021 NTT INDYCAR SERIES still some time away at Barber Motorsports Park in mid-April, Felix takes the opportunity to discuss his state of life and look ahead to an exciting new chapter with Arrow McLaren SP…
Q: Felix, we’re in the middle of the winter break and the start of the season is still some three months away. How do you spend your days at the moment?
FRO: It’s still a long way until the first race, but time runs fast and we’re well underway with our preparations. The first test is coming up on Monday and I’m really looking forward to getting back in the car. Most of my time right now is being spent working out and visiting the team HQ in Indianapolis.
Q: Talking about that: how are things progressing with your new team, Arrow McLaren SP?
FRO: I think I’ve settled into the team in a very natural way. We’ve spent quite a lot of time together since our first test back in November. It’s a down-to-earth group of people who certainly focus extremely hard on what they do, but who also know the importance of chilling out and having fun in between. I appreciate that mindset a lot. I really enjoy it here, and I think we’re all equally keen on taking Arrow McLaren SP to the next level.
Q: Who are the people you will be working closest to this season?
FRO: Blair Perschbacher is the race engineer on the #7 car, so he will be my main point of contact. My performance engineer, Mike Reggio, is also very involved in all of that communication. The same goes for my crew chief, Gary Frost. Billy Vincent will be the one talking to me on the radio. He has an overriding position as competition director, so he’s closely connected to all the mechanics and engineers, overseeing logistics etc. Chris Lawrence is head of simulation and thus will join me for all pre-event simulator sessions.
Q: You are racing alongside a new team-mate this season in Pato O’Ward. From what you’ve seen so far, how do you think the two of you will complement each other?
FRO: That will be very interesting to find out. Pato is nine years younger than me and has a reputation for being extremely fast. He put together a great season last year, making very few mistakes. I don’t know yet how different or similar our respective driving styles are, but I think we’ll push each other hard! He is a funny guy, which always helps. There’s never a calm moment around Pato (laughs)!
Q: What about the pre-season schedule?
FRO: The first test is at Sebring on Monday, so February 1, and the second is at Laguna Seca on March 1. That, along with an official day at IMS (Indianapolis Motor Speedway), is all the driving we’ll get before the opening round at Barber. There’s very little testing this year, especially if you’re not a rookie (who have extra days available), so we really have to maximize our running.
Q: On paper, this year’s INDYCAR calendar would appear to suit you well, with a larger proportion of street tracks than in the COVID-condensed 2020 schedule. An exciting new addition this year is the Music City Grand Prix in downtown Nashville. Have you been able to go on the sim and drive the track yet?
FRO: I struggle to find any real weaknesses for me in this year’s calendar. Let’s hope all the street races can go ahead – if so, it will be a season of much fun! I think the Nashville event has the potential of becoming an instant classic. It has all the right ingredients for a great street race. I have not been able to drive the track yet, but we will eventually and I think the layout looks fantastic.
Q: You are heading into your third season in the championship. Given the experience you now have, what do you think will be the key to INDYCAR success in 2021?
FRO: It will be the same as always: completing as many laps as possible. The INDYCAR points system really favours consistency a lot more than say, F1, where a single victory can make a big difference in the standings. Having said that, with a few more races this year than in 2020, it does become a little bit more forgiving if you were to retire once or twice. I felt very strong in the final oval races at Gateway last year, and I look forward to continuing that development with Arrow McLaren SP who have always gone well on ovals.