Arrow McLaren are on the brink of being an elite IndyCar team. However, the future of their driver lineup, specifically Felix Rosenqvist, is currently up in the air.
The Arrow McLaren IndyCar team have been in the news a lot over the past year. Most of that news has centered around their driver lineup.
Pato O’Ward and Alexander Rossi are set to remain with the team for the foreseeable future. Last season, they locked up the face of the franchise, O’Ward, through the 2025 season. Meanwhile, 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi is in his first season of a multi-year contract after coming over from Andretti Autosport.
On the other hand, Felix Rosenqvist’s future is seemingly tied to every silly season rumor, with his contract due to expire at the end of 2023.
Despite Rosenqvist’s strong qualifying performances this year, which have included a second straight pole position at Texas Motor Speedway and a front row start in the Indy 500, race day has been a struggle.
He has tallied only two top five finishes and four top 10 finishes through the first eight races of the season and currently sits in 12th in the standings. O’Ward sits in a fourth place tie while Rossi sits in seventh. If the growing team were to move on from Rosenqvist, where would they look?
It’s clear that McLaren CEO Zak Brown is investing heavily in IndyCar, so the team will likely look to make a splash.
Until recently, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou was the natural fit for Rosenqvist’s potentially vacant seat. Last year’s contract drama between Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing, and McLaren made it clear that Palou wanted to move on from Chip Ganassi Racing after 2022, implying Arrow McLaren would be the future home of the 2021 IndyCar champion.
But a lot can change over the course of a year.
Palou has been on a tear the past month and a half. He has won three of the last four races and flew to pole position at the Indy 500 in record-breaking fashion. That performance has put him square in the middle of rumors to fill a potentially open AlphaTauri seat for the 2024 Formula 1 season, with the long-term goal of moving to Red Bull.
With Palou’s recent domination, it’s no wonder that a potential move to Formula 1 is on the table. However, if that opportunity were to never come to fruition, it’s no longer hard to see the Spaniard sticking with Chip Ganassi Racing.
With his current performance, a move within IndyCar doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.
Fellow Chip Ganassi teammate Marcus Ericsson has also been mentioned as a potential Rosenqvist replacement if Arrow McLaren were to move on. Ericsson’s contract runs out at the end of this year.
Despite the 2022 Indy 500 winner and team owner Chip Ganassi publicly saying they’d like to figure out an extension, no agreement has been made and other teams are starting to court Ericsson, who wants to be treated like a “top driver” amid Ganassi’s desire to have him continue bringing funding.
Ericsson is having a quietly stellar season so far this year. Only Palou is above him in the standings. He won the season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida and has finished in the top 10 in each race. That stretch includes a second place finish in the Indy 500.
If Ganassi doesn’t make Ericsson one of the highest paid drivers in the paddock, I’m sure Brown would be happy to.
Another more under-the-radar potential replacement for Rosenqvist is David Malukas. With his Dale Coyne Racing contract ending after this season, Malukas will be looking to prove himself. A rough patch of four straight DNFs has tainted what was a great start to the season for the 21-year-old.
Malukas has recorded top 15 finishes in 13 of his 25 IndyCar races, including two top four efforts. If he can round out this season with some good, clean racing and another top 10 or two, Arrow McLaren may make the gamble.
With O’Ward and Rossi clearly the two team leaders and Rosenqvist currently underperforming, a younger, unproven driver is not out of the question.
Of course, this wouldn’t be an issue if we were having this conversation a year from now. Expansion of a fourth full time entry will likely coincide with the Arrow McLaren taking over Andretti Autosport’s Indiana headquarters in 2025, rather than 2024.
The conversation will then shift from who will replace one of their three full-time drivers to simply who will slot into what is sure to be a coveted fourth seat.
Given the current landscape and Rosenqvist’s struggles so far this year, the team will likely make a move in the fall. Whether it’s Palou, Ericsson, or a younger driver looking to prove himself, that move is going to raise some eyebrows.
Rosenqvist’s next chance to prove his worth is scheduled to happen this Sunday, July 2 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, where he placed second in 2019. However, his average finish in five races at the track is only 16.0.
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