Felix Rosenqvist clarifies contract situation with McLaren in IndyCar, Formula E

Felix Rosenqvist McLaren contract
James Gilbert/Getty Images)

The strange motorsports silly season has knocked IndyCar driver Felix Rosenqvist into contract limbo, with the Swede now desperately trying to hold onto his current seat and avoid being shipped to McLaren Racing’s new Formula E team.

McLaren and Rosenqvist said in June they’d agreed to a deal in which Rosenqvist would either return in 2023 to IndyCar or be the key piece when it launches its FE team next season. But as Rosenqvist’s performance has improved, his desire to remain in IndyCar has clouded his future.

He’s now snagged in the fight between Chip Ganassi Racing and IndyCar champion Alex Palou, who wants to leave Ganassi to move to the McLaren family next season. Ganassi is suing to stop the move.

Should Palou become available, Rosenqvist would be squeezed out of Arrow McLaren SP’s three-car IndyCar lineup. Palou would join Pato O’Ward and Alexander Rossi in IndyCar, and likely be a reserve driver for the Formula One team.

The drama intensified last weekend at Nashville amid speculation Rosenqvist was looking for an open 2023 seat in the IndyCar paddock. After practice Friday, Rosenqvist said his No. 7 Dallara-Chevrolet team was distracted by the uncertainty.

In a statement provided Tuesday to The Associated Press, the 30-year-old said a report suggesting he did not have a McLaren contract past this season “is not true. I do.”

McLaren holds an option on Rosenqvist in IndyCar that the team is likely holding until it has a resolution on Palou. In the meantime, Rosenqvist has not signed a contract to race in Formula E for the team, but McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown told The AP he’d release Rosenqvist if he finds another ride.

“I have a great relationship with Zak Brown and McLaren and they have always been very transparent and fair with me,” Rosenqvist said in his statement. “I understand Zak has some tough business decisions to make and holds an option my services for next season. I stand by what we announced in June.

“However, since then, I feel I have found my form in IndyCar and have made my desire clear to Zak in recent weeks to remain in IndyCar.”

Rosenqvist moved to IndyCar from Formula E after two seasons to join Ganassi ahead of the 2018 season. He scored one win, three podiums and a pole in two seasons with Ganassi, then moved to McLaren in 2021 as a free agent.

He struggled in his first season with the new team in what Rosenqvist has called the worst year of his driving career. His rebound did not begin until a fourth-place finish in the Indianapolis 500 in May – and by that time Brown was already deep in discussions with Rosenqvist over a move to FE.

Rosenqvist now believes he has “unfinished business” in IndyCar.

“That doesn’t mean I’m not excited about Formula E as it is a great championship that I have competed in successfully,” he said in his statement. “I recognize there is a lot of speculation at the moment about many drivers and where they will be next season. All I want to do is focus on my IndyCar racing the balance of this year.

“Whatever my future holds I will decide with Zak.”

There are three races remaining in the IndyCar season, which resumes Aug. 20 at World Wide Technology Raceway outside St. Louis. Rosenqvist has one podium, two poles and is ranked ninth in the IndyCar standings.

Max Verstappen could clinch second F1 title with victory in Singapore Grand Prix

Max Verstappen F1 Singapore

While last year’s intense Formula One title battle went to the wire and captivated the world of sport, this year’s F1 championship long has seemed a procession for Max Verstappen that could end Sunday in the Singapore Grand Prix.

If the Red Bull driver wins, and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc crumbles, Verstappen will claim his second consecutive series title.

Verstappen leads Leclerc by 116 points with six races remaining in the 2022 season and will clinch the title if he scores 22 points more than Leclerc, his most realistic head-to-head challenger.

Verstappen, who turned 25 on Friday, must win to clinch a second world title, along with two other scenarios involving Leclerc. If Verstappen wins, Leclerc can finish no higher than ninth; if Verstappen wins and earns a bonus point for fastest lap, Leclerc can finish no higher than eighth.

“It’s quite a long shot,” Verstappen said. “I need a lot of luck for it to happen here, so I don’t really count on it.”

It is more realistic that Verstappen secures the title Oct. 9 at the Japanese GP.

“I think Suzuka will be my first proper opportunity to win the title,” the Dutchman said. “So I’m looking forward to Singapore right now, but I’m also very excited for next week.”

Still, there’ll be no tension in the air Sunday night at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, as in Abu Dhabi last year when Mercedes star Lewis Hamilton lost the title on the last lap to Verstappen. Hamilton missed out on a record eighth F1 title in a controversial finish following a chaotic late restart.

That fans won’t get to see any such drama this season is much to Hamilton’s regret.

“I feel for the fans . . . Last year, going right down to the wire, that was intense for everybody and so it’s never great when the season finishes early,” Hamilton said. “For you, as the one individual (winner) it’s great, but for the actual sport, (it) is not spectacular. Let’s hope for the future that it’s a bit better.”

Verstappen’s teammate Sergio Perez (125 points back), Mercedes driver George Russell (132 behind) and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. (152) are mathematical title challengers only.

Red Bull is unlikely to allow Perez an opportunity to beat Verstappen, though, and would deploy him to defend its star driver. Verstappen has won 11 of 16 races, including the past five, taking his career tally to 31.

“It’s been a really special season, and I’m enjoying it a lot,” he said. “But I (will) probably enjoy it more after the season, looking back at it.”

He’s also won from seven different grid positions – a single-season F1 record – including starting from 14th at the Belgian GP last month.

“It’s even good to watch when you’re in the car,” McLaren driver Lando Norris said. “Especially when he starts (far back) and still wins quite easily.”

Hamilton hasn’t been close enough to challenge Verstappen this year after so long in the spotlight.

Two of Hamilton’s came on the last day: in 2008 with an overtake on the last corner of the final race, and in 2014 when he beat then-Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in Abu Dhabi. Two years later, he lost the title in the last race to Rosberg.

Hamilton won the championship with three races left in 2015, and he won the 2020 title at the Turkish GP in a shortened season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

With seven titles, that put him even with fellow great Michael Schumacher, who won the 2002 championship with six races remaining. An outstanding campaign saw Schumacher place first or second in 16 of 17 races and third in Malaysia – a race won by his younger brother, Ralf.

Hamilton has a record 103 victories but none this season.

Mercedes has struggled with ground effects, where the floor generates aerodynamic grip – an issue known as porpoising or bouncing – that has been particularly difficult on street circuits like Monaco or Azerbaijan.

Singapore’s tight and sinewy 3.1-mile street course again could be challenging.

“We hope that the car works better here,” Hamilton said. “It really depends how bumpy it is, and the bumps often set the car off. Maybe the car will be fine. Maybe it won’t.”

He does think Mercedes has figured out how to maximize opportunities when they do come.

“We know where those limitations are; we just have to try and work around them,” he said. “I think we were very fortunate, we’re in a much better place I think. So I hope that we’re not far away (from a victory).”

Russell seems to have coped better, however, and leads sixth-place Hamilton by 35 points in the standings. He has seven podium finishes compared to six for Hamilton, who was fifth in the second practice after leading the opening session. The Ferraris of Sainz and Leclerc topped the second practice.

Williams driver Alex Albon returns to racing just three weeks after being hospitalized with appendicitis and then suffering subsequent respiratory failure.

Albon jumped back into the Williams FW44 for the first practice session on Friday in hot and humid evening conditions.

“It’s definitely audacious to come back for the toughest race of the season having only just recovered,” Russell said. “But it just goes to show the sort of grit and determination he has.”

Drivers lose around 5 kilos (11 pounds) in weight through dehydration during Sunday’s race.