The Indy 500 rookie who can say he beat Max Verstappen

One IndyCar driver preparing to make his first ever Indy 500 start is the only driver in IndyCar or Formula 1 who can say he is unbeaten against Max Verstappen.
Tom Blomqvist, Meyer Shank Racing, Indy 500, IndyCar
Tom Blomqvist, Meyer Shank Racing, Indy 500, IndyCar / Grace Hollars/IndyStar / USA TODAY

Meyer Shank Racing's Tom Blomqvist has made quite the name for himself in other forms of motorsport, but in 2024, he embarked on a new challenge when he became a full-time IndyCar driver for the same team with which he won an IMSA SportsCar Championship and two 24 Hours of Daytona races.

The start of the 2024 season has presented the 30-year-old British driver with plenty of challenges, even after he made the first three starts of his career last year in place of the injured Simon Pagenaud. But he knows that competing for a resurgent team in Meyer Shank Racing, which managed just a single top 10 finish a year ago, gives him plenty of room to improve.

Just look at teammate Felix Rosenqvist, a fellow former Formula E driver who has been in IndyCar since 2019. Also a newcomer to the Meyer Shank Racing IndyCar program, the 32-year-old Swede has reeled off four straight top 10 finishes to start the 2024 season and finds himself in fifth place in the championship standings.

"Felix has obviously had a great run of races so far," Blomqvist told Beyond the Flag. "[He's] been really, really competitive, qualifying super well. He feels really at home with the team. He looks like the team's able to get the most out of him as a person, extract and reach his true potential, which is what the team managed to do for me on the sports car side of things."

Tom Blomqvist getting up to speed

Through the season's first four races, Blomqvist's best finish is 15th place in the season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg. But right now, he is focused on taking it all in and learning as much as he can.

"This is obviously a different challenge for me and I'm still getting up to speed," he continued. "I'm not where I want to be yet, but we'll get there, and I think that gives me a lot of confidence. Having that baseline of someone competitive in the car means you can focus more on yourself, and you're not worried about questioning, ‘is the car good? is it bad?’, so that helps for sure."

There are a number of races which Blomqvist is looking forward to later in the year, aside from his oval debut in the upcoming Indy 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which he spoke at length with us about in a separate article.

"I was looking forward to Nashville, but now that's an oval," he admitted. "I'm actually not looking forward to it anywhere near as much as I would have if it were downtown there, because I've heard that's a pretty cool city. Outside of that, I'm looking forward to Road America; that's a fun place. I'm also looking forward to getting back to Laguna because I've done that race on that track."

A breakthrough for Blomqvist at some point later in the season would surprise nobody. And if it would, consider this: he is the only active IndyCar driver who can say that he beat three-time reigning Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen over the course of an entire season.

In fact, even among the current Formula 1 grid, no active driver can say that they have never been beaten by the Dutchman.

While it happened 10 years ago in Formula 3, it's a good reminder to Blomqvist that he, too, is quite a decent driver himself.

"Yeah, I guess sometimes I go, ‘you know what? I have beaten that guy before'," he said. "Just remind myself when I’m having those bad days that I'm a decent driver myself."

Even with Verstappen being only 16 years old at the time, Blomqvist could tell that he had what it took to be special.

"I mean, the kid was like – you could tell back then that he was going to be something special, right? He was young, first year out of go-karts; what he did was pretty impressive, regardless."

Verstappen is now 26 and finds himself in third place on the all-time Formula 1 wins list.

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"But yeah, I have beaten him, right? There's no one else on that F1 grid that can say they never lost to him, because all those F1 drivers have!"