Felix Rosenqvist made his presence felt in the NTT Data INDYCAR Series last season, winning rookie of the year honors piloting his Chip Ganassi Racing #10 car to 10 top ten finishes, two podiums, and a sixth place points finish.
Now with one season under his belt, Rosenqvist feels more confident than ever to continue his strong rookie form.
Before coming to INDYCAR, Rosenqvist drove in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship, winning the 2015 title. He also drove various sports car events, and had two seasons in Formula E with Mahindra Racing.
So far this season, Rosenqvist finished 20th after a heartbreaking late crash in the Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway and 15th in the GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course. After a troubling first leg of the REV Group Grand Prix Presented by AMR Doubleheader at Road America with a spark plug issue, Rosenqvist finally turned his season around with a win in the second leg of the doubleheader, his first career INDYCAR win.
Just before the series headed to Road America for the REV Group Grand Prix , the 28 year old Swede sat down over Zoom with The Checkered Flag’s Griffin Schmoyer for an interview.
You were named rookie of the year last year, what would you say are your biggest takeaways from last year that you’re bringing into your sophomore year this year?
“It was a good season, but it definitely had its ups and downs. I think it started off really good in St. Pete and then it went to a bad midseason I’d say. A couple of crashes, a kind of poor month of May, even if I had pole at the Indy GP and I had a really good race at the [Indianapolis] 500 that ended with a crash, and I think right about there it was looking a bit dark and then everything turned around after that and I had a really solid end to the year.
“I think the biggest thing was at the end of the year even if I had a bad day, it was still a top 5 finish coming out of it instead of kind of like what I had last week [in the GMR Grand Prix] where you end up 15th because nothing is working in your favor.
“It was a good season, and I wish this year had started off better, but still I feel way more confident this year than I did last year.”
Like you’ve mentioned, it’s very up and down, and of course this year has been very weird, how have you been coping with quarantine life during the whole pandemic?
“I think I’ve been coping pretty well to be honest. My girlfriend was here in the beginning of the quarantine and then unfortunately she had to go back because of her visa so we haven’t seen each other for almost three months I think so that’s been pretty difficult but other than that we’ve been coping pretty well, I’m used to being on my own.
“The only difference is there is no travel and that’s very strange, but it’s nice to fully recharge the batteries and get the proper hunger back to be in the car again.
“It affects everyone, but I’m lucky that it hasn’t affected INDYCAR and our team too badly and we’re still going, so I try to see it that way and I’m happy that things are kind of normal.”
Before you came to INDYCAR, you drove sports cars, Formula 3, and even Formula E. What separates INDYCAR compared to driving those other disciplines?
“The diversity in INDYCAR is the biggest thing. In those other series you can become an expert of each car and when you figure it out it works everywhere. But INDYCAR is like driving a lot of series at the same time because everything is so different everywhere, especially the tracks.
“But even how the car behaves at the different tracks, the tyres are different even if on TV they look the same, most of the races have different compounds.
“It’s a skill to know what you need for that specific weekend with very little preparation because sometimes you just don’t know what you’re going to face. Especially this year with the [GMR Grand Prix] for example. Last year we had a very very cold race and this year it was up in the mid-90s [Farenheit].
“With all of those things, it’s definitely the most difficult series I’ve been driving in.”
You mentioned how different INDYCAR is with driving different circuits, having driven majority road courses for your entire career, of course coming to INDYCAR you had to learn and adapt to ovals. Is there any way you drive differently or prepare differently for ovals compared to a road course?
“Every way you drive on an oval is different compared to a road course. The momentum you have to carry is so important. For example, in Texas if you carry one mile an hour through turn 1, you’re going to carry that all the way around the rest of the lap.
“When you’re driving it doesn’t feel like much, but when you look at the data and see how much those little things do and how little it takes to be on the good side or the bad side of it, it’s really remarkable.
“Last year it felt like I was a kid in school on the first day and I didn’t know, obviously I know how to drive a car fast I think I can figure it out in qualifying, but there are just so many things that are new that you have to learn by driving. You have to set up your car to be good in traffic, good when you’re not in traffic, track changes, temperature changes, it’s just so much.
“It reminded me a lot of Formula E, because you have to manage so many things outside of just being fast. You put 30 percent of your capacity into driving the car, and then 70 percent is looking around at the strategy, your tools, the way the track changes, etc. You put a lot of focus in other areas that you normally don’t do when you drive.”
What are your goals for this year?
“My goal is to be up at the front and to win races. I think we’re in a situation now where [Scott] Dixon has taken a good step so I think my role is probably going to be more and more to take points from the others. If I can help take points from the championship contenders then that’s always gonna help.
“But it’s still early on, we never know how things are going to go around. It’s definitely a big hole to dig yourself out of when you’re 20th after two weekends, but it’s still early on so I would say it’s still open and I just want to get back on having some good results and I think the rest is going to sort itself out.”
One last fun question for you, if you could pick one circuit from anywhere in the world for INDYCAR to host a Grand Prix at, where would it be and why?
“Bathurst in Australia. INDYCAR has been in Australia before and that track is majestic. It’s probably a little bit dangerous with an INDYCAR but I think it’s still possible to do it for sure. That would be a dream track. It probably won’t ever happen, but it would be cool.”