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Rosenqvist: We can't have a season like we had last year

Arrow McLaren SP driver Felix Rosenqvist says the 2021 IndyCar season “was a tough one to go through” but is confident the team has gained “big grounds” that will boost his chances.

Felix Rosenqvist, Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet

The Swede struggled to match teammate Pato O’Ward on road and street courses in the first two-thirds of last season, and his cause was hurt by a major shunt in Detroit that forced him to miss two races.

However, for this year the team’s director of trackside engineering Craig Hampson has gone from being Rosenqvist’s strategist to become his race engineer, the pair having made notable progress in terms of pace in 2021’s final third.

“For sure we can't have a season like we had last year,” said Rosenqvist, who scored a pole and a win in his first two years of the series with Chip Ganassi Racing. “I don't have to explain all the things that happened. I think Detroit was only a little part to be honest in everything that was going down.

“We're excited and we have no reason to think that's going to happen again…

“I like to talk with [Hampson] about the car, and in general we spend quite a lot of time just discussing different things about setups and life in general, which I think is good. You kind of need that almost father-and-son relationship with your engineer, and we spend a lot of time together. I feel like we really get along on a personal level, so I'm excited about that.

“His record speaks for itself. He's been in this business for a long time, and IndyCar is a category where you need that kind of hands-on experience. You can't just win by being, let's say, the most clever engineer. You have to kind of feel the sport and know what's going on and see it with your own eyes. I think that's what Craig really has.”

Felix Rosenqvist, Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet

Felix Rosenqvist, Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet

Photo by: Barry Cantrell / Motorsport Images

Given his struggles with Arrow McLaren SP’s setup which is heavy on front-end downforce, Rosenqvist admitted that “it was never an easy car to drive for me or Pato for that matter. It was definitely something to get used to in the beginning.

“We had a Portland test in the middle of the year and I think that's where we made some big grounds in the setup for my liking, and I think that gave me some confidence with the car, and it all kind of spiraled in the right direction, let's say.

“It's just details. You'll never find something that is like, ‘Oh, now we're winning every race!’ It's always the small things.

“But I think that's actually the time we found something that worked, and the results went a lot better from that point. Just that little added confidence took me to another level really.

“Those are the kind of things you want to find, and now we had an off-season to really look at things, and you sit back and go through all the data, go through all the races, and I've had some time to really work on myself and feel prepared in a different way compared to what it was at this time last year.”

Asked if he and O’Ward were now further away in terms of setup, Rosenqvist replied: “That's a target at least, but with the amount of driving we get these days, nothing is for sure. I mean, we have one day of testing before we hit St. Pete, and there's a lot of expectation and a lot of things we're going to have to get done in that day at Sebring.

“I'm not going to make any promises about what's been done or what's going to be done, but let's say we're pretty confident that we made some big grounds when it comes to drivability, which was the main issue for me last year.”

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