Following an intense NTT INDYCAR SERIES season, Felix Rosenqvist is in the middle of racing’s annual winter break. Already, however, the urge for 2023 – and a compelling expansion within Arrow McLaren SP – is real. In this Q&A, we check in on the current state of affairs for the double 2022 pole-sitter.
What have you been up to after the season-finale at Laguna Seca?
FRO: I’ve spent quite a lot of time back home in Monaco, and seen my family – but I’ve also had a few trips back to Indianapolis and Charlotte where our simulator is based. To be honest, I wouldn’t mind if the new season began a week after the finale. I think the break is way too long, even though it’s a relaxing time that allows you to recharge a little bit.
Next year will see Arrow McLaren SP expand from two cars to three, and even four at the Indy 500. How is that expansion going, and can you feel the team grow?
FRO: It’s going well so far. We’ve run three cars at the Indy 500 for a number of years now, so we’ve had a taste of what it takes from an organizational standpoint. It feels like the timing is right for a full-time scale-up. We’ve grown progressively over the last few seasons, and instead of hiring a lot of new people all at once, it’s a process that’s been ongoing for at least one year.
How do you expect the addition of a third car to affect you out on track in 2023?
FRO: It’s always a challenge to grow, but given the way it’s happening, I feel like it will only strengthen us and provide a lot of new tools in our championship pursuit. It’s been numerous times over the past two years that we’ve really missed having an extra car. Running just two, you’re a little bit constrained evaluating set-ups. Having an additional 50 % of data – and relevant data through a skilled driver like Alex Rossi – is going to be invaluable in my opinion.
As a result of the expansion, you will shift from the #7 to the #6 car next year. Will that have any wider knock-on effects on the group around you?
FRO: All is not finalized, but the general plan is to keep my crew as intact as possible. There will be a few changes, though.
My engineer from this season, Craig Hampson, will be on the Rossi car and Chris Lawrence (formerly head of simulation and strategy on the #7 car) will replace him in my group.
It’s a bit mixed, because I really enjoyed working with Craig, and he’s one of the best race engineers in the business. On the other hand, Chris is one of our brightest engineers. He’s been on the team for a long time and is ready for race engineering.
On top of his skills, he’s also a close friend off track and we spend a lot of time together in Indianapolis, so I think the ingredients are all there for a great collaboration!
This season was largely a positive one, and a significant step in performance over 2021. You took eighth in the championship and were in contention for victory in the Indy 500. What are the focus areas this winter as you bid for even more in 2023?
FRO: I’d say our emphasis as a team is on improving the pace on street courses, and for me as a driver, short ovals. I’m keen to take the same step on short ovals that I’ve done on superspeedways; that would give me a strong championship package.
Also, we must do better in the early parts of the season and ensure we’re on it from day one. I do think we’ll have completely different tools for that in 2023, so I’m confident we can be a lot stronger out of the gates in St. Pete!
When will we next see you in the car?
FRO: My next scheduled outing is at the official pre-season test at The Thermal Club on February 2-3. It’s a brand new track in California where none of us have been before, so that adds yet another layer to the obscurity of the pre-season period. It will be even harder than usual to read. Those two days will be critical, though, with lots of items to work through; it’s the only real opportunity for all the teams to properly prepare for the opening races.