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IndyCar Laguna Seca

How Rosenqvist scored an “ironic” IndyCar pole for McLaren

Felix Rosenqvist starts his final IndyCar Series race for Arrow McLaren at Laguna Seca on Sunday from pole position, a result he labeled “ironic” given his circumstances.

Felix Rosenqvist, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, NTT P1 Award

McLaren’s IndyCar racing director Gavin Ward watched two of his Arrow McLaren challengers fall early in qualifying, with Meyer Shank Racing-bound Rosenqvist rising to be the unlikely hero with a pole-winning performance for Sunday’s Grand Prix of Monterey.

Ward was at mercy of standing on the timing stand and witnessing one of the most intense qualifying outings of the 2023 IndyCar season, as Alexander Rossi fell out of contention in Round 1 and leading man Pato O’Ward lost out on during the top 12 portion of the session.

Rosenqvist, who will join MSR next season and was in a lame duck scenario entering the weekend, barely advanced out of Round 1 but methodically worked his way into the Fast Six shootout.

And when it counted, the Swede laid down a mistake-free flyer of 1m06.6416s to capture pole at the newly repaved 2.238-mile, 11-turn circuit.

“He put in a fantastic lap and that was great to see,” Ward said. “He didn't put a foot wrong when lots of people did.

“That's the other thing. This is a track that I think was already like this a little bit before the repave, but post repave, it's got all the qualities of my favorite kind of racetrack. It rewards bravery and commitment, punishes mistakes. He had to be on it today and he was.”

The relationship between Arrow McLaren and Rosenqvist hasn’t delivered the results either have hoped for, but that doesn’t take away from the sincere admiration and respect they have for one another.

“We all absolutely adore Felix,” Ward said. “We went into this year, regardless of what the outcome was going toa be, we wanted to do the best for him and him to be as successful as possible. And you know what? I just hope we can get a win tomorrow.”

Felix Rosenqvist, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, NTT P1 Award

Felix Rosenqvist, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, NTT P1 Award

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

Rosenqvist echoed those thoughts from his own perspective, coming fresh off his strong runner-up finish in Portland last weekend.

“In a way it's ironic,” Rosenqvist said. “It's just kind of proving the pace we have, we keep having.

“Things haven't been straightforward. We haven't been good enough this year. I made a lot of mistakes. The team made a lot of mistakes. We had some unfortunate things happening.

“I think the number one thing as a driver you want to keep showing is your pace. Obviously, Portland was a very good weekend for us. To kick off this weekend like this is just perfect.

“It's the last weekend with the team, so a bit emotional obviously. I love all these guys and girls in Arrow McLaren, NTT DATA. Even with other teams, I've been working with them.

“Yeah, it's definitely a perfect way to end things.”

Patricio O'Ward, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Patricio O'Ward, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Photo by: Phillip Abbott / Motorsport Images

O’Ward’s chances to transfer in the Fast Six were done after a spin in the final seconds of the top 12. The Mexican described that he didn’t have the same balance of the car that led the group 2 portion of Round 1 earlier.

He qualified 12th, ahead of teammate Rossi in 17th.

“I just couldn't get a grip on the car, we didn't really change much from Q1 to Q2, but they were two consecutive laps where I couldn't attack,” O’Ward said. “And that's what happens when you're trying to get a laptime out of it when it's not there, I don't know why.

“It was such a difference. Not ideal for the starting position tomorrow considering how hard it's going to be to pass.

“I don't know if we missed it on the [tire] pressures in Q2, it seems fairly sensitive to those kinds of things because of how high commitment it is. It just felt like a completely different car.”

Alexander Rossi, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Alexander Rossi, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

For his part, Rossi was left kicking his heels after Q1 and blaming the sequence of red flags in his session that also caught out Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta.

“The car was great,” he said. “There wasn’t much more we could do there once a red flag comes out and takes it away from you.

“It was the best car we’ve had through the weekend so to not break out of Round 1 is really disappointing. Colton Herta and I have had probably the strongest cars all weekend, and we’re starting in the back half of the field.

“It’s a shame, but I’m really happy for Felix on pole.”

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