By: Tanner Watkins
May 12, 2019 | 3:00 PM
While the Swedish driver will be the first to tell you that Saturday’s race got away from the No. 10 NTT Honda team, Felix Rosenqvist should be proud of his result in the INDYCAR Grand Prix.
Yes, the rookie claimed his first pole in the NTT IndyCar Series this weekend, and expectations were running high heading into the 85-lap event. But there were more than enough curveballs thrown in this sixth edition of the Indianapolis road course race where veterans with more experience performed worse – and Rosenqvist should take some solace in that.
“It was a tough race with a lot of things happening,” said the 27-year-old driver. “It was kind of bad timing on some things – we had some bad luck and we had some errors here and there. I think the main point for us was we were still having issues with degredation in the front on red (Firestone alternate) tires. We just dropped massively and we had to go short on the second stint on reds.”
Taking a look at the bigger picture, fall off was an issue for both Chip Ganassi Racing cars on Saturday.
Scott Dixon – a five-time champion in this series – was fighting for dear life to hold onto a five-plus second lead with less than ten laps remaining in the race, eventually losing out to Simon Pagenaud because the No. 9 Honda had little grip left in the front tires at the end of the race.
Dixon lost a large chunk of his lead in the middle portion of the race, as well, when the tires began to fall off in the stint. Looking back at the finish, the writing was on the wall for Dixon before we even got to the final five-lap battle with Pagenaud. And by using a team setup that even Dixon couldn’t make work when it mattered most, it makes Rosenqvist’s eighth place finish yesterday seem relatively strong.
Furthermore, when the rain finally came, Rosenqvist remained calm, cool and collected despite dropping from the pole to outside the top ten. In fact, he used the rain to truly salvage the day and make up multiple positions in the race’s final stages.
“We came out (from) the back on the wet tires, and I think we managed to get four or five guys in the end and ended up P8,” Rosenqvist admitted post-race.
“It was a good salvage of points and we managed to recover a lot. At the end of the day, we can be happy with that. But overall, I’m very disappointed and I felt like I gave away something – which was likely a podium today for the NTT Data car.”
On a day when championship contender Alexander Rossi was hobbled from the beginning and finished four laps down, or an experienced race-winner like Helio Castroneves spun on his own exiting the pits, Rosenqvist minimized the mistakes.
Sure, he would have liked to finish higher up the grid, but this is the kind of run that will not only help him in the final points classification, but more importantly, build on his foundation towards becoming a more consistent racer in this series.
Rosenqvist is tough, resilient and talented, and to end Saturday on a high note is certainly a positive heading into Indianapolis 500 preparations. He will be challenged even further over the next two weeks, but there haven’t been any signs to tell us Rosenqvist won’t pass that test when the time comes.
Header image by Aaron Skillman/INDYCAR.
Open-Wheels coverage of the 2019 month of May at Indianapolis is presented by Driven 2 Save Lives. Driven 2 Save Lives, an entity of the Indiana Donor Network, is a program that utilizes motorsports as a platform to encourage race fans to become organ donors. Currently, there are 114,000 individuals that are waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. Register as an organ, tissue, and eye donor at Driven2SaveLives.org/register and follow Driven2SaveLives on Facebook and Twitter.