Rosenqvist doesn’t think a win can alter his McLaren destiny

Felix Rosenqvist says all he can do is focus on trying to win IndyCar races but doesn’t expect a victory will alter McLaren CEO Zak Brown’s plans of how to arrange his burgeoning driver roster.

Pole sitter Felix Rosenqvist, Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet celebrates with his team

Just a couple of weeks after finishing a strong third in Toronto, Rosenqvist scored a highly convincing pole on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, and only a mechanical issue prevented his Arrow McLaren SP from contending for victory.

However, although signed by McLaren for 2023, the 30-year-old Swede has not yet been informed in which series he’ll be competing. While McLaren is expanding the Arrow McLaren SP IndyCar team from two to three full-time entries next year, and has signed incumbent Pato O’Ward and current Andretti Autosport driver Alexander Rossi, the occupant of the third seat has not yet been defined. McLaren has signed defending IndyCar champion Alex Palou, and while the latter’s ambition is to be in Formula 1, until a vacancy becomes available he’s one of the obvious choices for the third AMSP ride.

Should he lose his IndyCar seat, Rosenqvist is hotly tipped for a return to Formula E with McLaren’s new team.

After his podium in Canada, Rosenqvist said: “I hope this weekend makes Zak doubt some things.” Asked on Tuesday, in light of his IMS pole, whether he was continuing to achieve this ambition, Rosenqvist made reference to Palou now being in a contractual battle with Ganassi in order to join McLaren, and Brown also being rumored to have signed 2021 Formula 2 champion Oscar Piastri.

“Well, it seems like he has a lot of other things to think about right now,” he said. “Yeah, it never hurts, right, if you're doing well, if you're performing. I think if you have the pace, that's always a good thing. I don't think it hurts.

“Obviously the conversations we had have indicated that [remaining on the IndyCar team] doesn't really… that's not really what it stands between, if I'm quick or not quick. I think it's more complex than that, let's say, but I think it never hurts. If you're doing well, it's always going to help you somehow. That's all I can do, as well. I'm just going to continue to keep my foot down and try to win races.

“Do I think it's going to make a difference to whether I stay or not? I don't think so. I mean, I think it helps me every time I can prove myself. In racing, you're always as good as your last race, and that still goes for situations like this. Even if someone is saying it doesn't matter, it always matters. If you do well, you're a top property, and if you don't do well, you get overlooked pretty quickly.

“Yeah, the target doesn't change. I think I'm just focused on winning races, and that's going to be it for me until the end of the season.

Asked who he thought would occupy McLaren F1 seat in 2023 alongside Lando Norris – Palou, Piastri or current incumbent, Daniel Ricciardo – Rosenqvist replied: “I don't know, man. I honestly don't know. I'm just enjoying the whole thing from a safe distance.

“I think my situation is obviously not very linked to this situation. It's rather to the previous situation that was similar. You kind of like try to filter out, how does it affect you and in what ways can you change the situation, or like what details do you need to care about, and once you know that, you kind of just focus on that.

“I think at this point like nothing has really changed for a while now for me. Like we're still kind of in limbo about next season, and we have this whole court case going on, on the side, which we know nothing about – or at least I don't.

“As I say, I'm just focused on driving really. It's obviously fun that things are happening – at least for you [media] guys – but yeah, I'm just focused on racing. We'll see where it all lands.”

Today, Alpine announced Piastri on its race team for 2023, before the young Aussie hit social media to say this was not the case and that he would not be driving for Alpine next year. This echoed the farce surrounding Ganassi and Palou three weeks ago, when the legendary team announced it had taken up its third-year option on Palou, the latter denied it, and McLaren announced it had hired the Spanish star.

Rosenqvist said such problems are “always related to options.”

He went on to explain: “I think as a rule, teams generally put options in their contracts because they want to control the drivers. I think this is my big case for drivers to get together and say, ‘Let's not sign any options,’ or ‘Let's not put options in our contracts, because it just creates a mess.’

“I think if you have an option, that means that there will potentially be a mess if both parties don't agree… I think it might change a lot of things. There's probably going to be a lot of teams and drivers think about going forward signing their contracts.

Colton Herta, one of the drivers – along with Palou and O’Ward – on McLaren’s F1 test driver list, following his first outing at Portimao last month, expanded on the subject.

“There's three types of options: There's a driver option, a team option and a mutual option in contracts. [Fernando] Alonso [who signed for Aston Martin F1 this week], he had a driver option, so he was the one in control of his future.

“For me, I've had options in the past, but they've been team options, and I've had mutual options where we both have to agree on a price to pay me, how long to do it for and whatnot. It's a lot to digest. It definitely depends on what type of options you have, though.”

Rosenqvist added: “Whenever you sign a contract … you actually sign it, which means you're obliged to follow what it says. But I think also a lot of us, we've all been there when you're young, maybe you don't have any money in your bank account, you have a deal going, and it's very one-sided, but you still sign it because it's the best thing you can have.

“I think in those cases, I remember when I came to Formula E there was a lot of drivers who came up to me and they were like, ‘Hey, think about this, you should definitely have this in your contract,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, I really appreciate that,’ because I didn't know anything. I never got paid to drive anything before that.

“But… it's definitely becoming a bit of an issue right now and it's creating a lot of mess, so hopefully we can just get together as a community, and like, ‘Hey, what's going on here?’”

Both drivers said they read their contracts, and didn’t leave it in the hands of managers. Said Herta, “I know exactly every bit of it, when I'm allowed to talk, when I'm not, and whatnot. I think it's important. I think you have to.”

Rosenqvist said, “You have to know exactly what you're signing. It seems like in these cases maybe that wasn't the case.”

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