Rosenqvist endures “tough” Indy GP after maiden pole position

by Jordan Groves

Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Felix Rosenqvist had a rollercoaster of a weekend at the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Indianapolis. The Swedish driver put in an incredible performance in Friday’s qualifying session to take his first pole position, but a tough race on Saturday would see him finish in only eighth place.

Entering the fifth race weekend of the 2019 season, Rosenqvist was sitting just outside of the top ten in the championship standings after three top ten finishes in the first four races. Despite this reasonable start to his rookie season, Felix felt a little disappointed having believed he could have finished much higher at some of the races, particularly the second round at the Circuit of the Americas.

In Friday’s qualifying session, Felix once again showed his fantastic speed. He set, by far, the fastest time of the weekend back at COTA during qualifying and looked to be on for good things at Indy, comfortably advancing his way through to the shootout for pole position.

Entering the final session, the advantage looked to be with Rosenqvist’s fellow rookie, Colton Herta, who was the only driver to lap inside the 1:07’s during the second round of qualifying. However, Colton was not able to replicate his speed in the final round, opening the door for Rosenqvist.

As the clock ticked down towards the end of the session, Jack Harvey was on provisional pole. However, Rosenqvist would come through to go just two-hundredths of a second faster. Felix could not celebrate just yet, however, as his reigning champion team-mate, Scott Dixon, was still to set a lap. When the New Zealander crossed the line, he was just one-hundredth of a second slower than Rosenqvist.

No one else would be able to beat Rosenqvist’s time as the session expired, meaning that Felix had claimed his first-career pole position in the NTT IndyCar Series; leading a front-row lock-out for Chip Ganassi Racing. After climbing out of his #10 Honda, Felix would thank his team for giving him such a fast car and would go on to say how relieved he was to be back towards the front of the grid again.

Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar

“We’ve been up there all day,” Rosenqvist said on Friday, “The NTT Honda car has been amazing. Big thanks to the 10 car crew and also the 9 car crew. Just a really good day.

“It started very solid. Been sort of top five all day and that’s a fine run on reds. The first two laps I didn’t really feel like I had a grip and then the final lap there was just something switching on and I was like ‘OK, this could be good.’ But honestly, I didn’t think it was going to be. It is so tight and I looked up at the screen and we were P1 and I just prayed it was going to hold but, yeah, fantastic day. Thanks to my team.”

“I spent the last two races sort of in the angry midpack so it’s a good change to be back where we were at St. Pete and COTA. Also, well done by Scott (Dixon). I hope we can sort of go together so that we finish in 1, 2 there.”

Rosenqvist made the most of his pole position to hold on to the race lead on the long run down to turn one. The Chip Ganassi 1-2 was interrupted by Meyer Shank Racing‘s Jack Harvey, who slotted into second place at the first corner.

Felix would remain at the front of the pack for the opening stages of the race, only losing the lead after the first caution when Dixon moved up from third to first on the race restart.

From there, Rosenqvist’s race started to unravel. The Swedish driver was suffering from prevalent tyre degradation issues throughout the race. This saw him slowly slip down the order. Additionally, two of Rosenqvist’s pit-stops during the race would be scarier than intended, as a faulty fuel hose saw the car catch fire twice, with the flames thankfully being extinguished when he pulled away.

Furthermore, Rosenqvist was forced to take the final race restart with twenty laps to go outside of the top ten after being caught out by the sudden worsening of the weather conditions. He, like many others, had pitted for dry tyres when the caution came out, only to have to pit a few laps later when the rain worsened, handing a massive advantage to those who gambled on wet tyres

In the closing laps of the race, Rosenqvist would be able to pass a few cars to work his way back inside the top ten, eventually taking the chequered flag in eighth place. His team-mate, meanwhile, would just miss out on the race win after being passed by Team Penske‘s Simon Pagenaud on the penultimate lap.

After the race, Rosenqvist would admit that he was “very disappointed” with how the race panned out, stating that he believed he could have been on the podium with his team-mate had things gone differently.

Credit: Dana Garrett / Courtesy of IndyCar

“It was a tough race, with a lot of things happening,” Felix said on Saturday, “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 that we were still having issues with degradation in the front on the red [Firestone alternate] tyres mainly. We just dropped massively and we had to go short on the second stint on reds. That just set us up badly for the rest of the race. I don’t know why it’s happening, but it’s something we are looking into.

“I feel like we should have been up in the front and somehow we couldn’t do that today. I did everything I could, but it didn’t work out in the No. 10 car. We came out toward the back on the wet tyres, and I think we managed to get four or five guys in the end and ended up P8. 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 we gave away something, which was likely a podium today for the NTT DATA car.”

Both Rosenqvist and Chip Ganassi Racing will be hoping to be up at the sharp end of the field once again as the all-important month of May continues. Preparations for the 2019 Indianapolis 500 will begin tomorrow, Tuesday, May 14, with the first official practice session. Having already completed his mandatory rookie orientation process in the open test last month, Rosenqvist will be able to focus solely on preparing for the first oval race of his career.

Following four days of practice, the two days of qualifying will be run on Saturday, May 18, to Sunday, May 19. The race itself, the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500, will take place on Sunday, May 26.

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