On the eve of his much-predicted departure from Arrow McLaren, Felix Rosenqvist produced his best result from his three-year tenure with the team, after passing his teammates and splitting the dominant Chip Ganassi Racing Hondas at the checkered flag.
After a mechanical failure in qualifying left him in a disappointing and unrepresentative 11th on the grid, behind teammates Pato O’Ward (sixth) and Alexander Rossi (ninth), Rosenqvist was on it from the word go. Making good use of his Firestone primaries in the opening stint to climb into the top 10 and remain in touch with those running the softer alternate-compound tires, he was there ready to surge forward as his rivals’ reds wilted.
“I was really bummed yesterday after qualifying. We had something break in the steering rack, and we had to pit before we could do our lap in Q2. There was definitely more in it than our starting position showed.
“What a race. That was really good fun. It kind of went our way as well. We kind of gambled on staying out on reds, but it worked out with the yellow in the end.”
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Portland Victory Lap with Alex Palou
IndyCar Portland GP recap with CGR strategist Mike O’Gara
‘It’s been an amazing season’ – Palou on his second IndyCar title
Rosenqvist ran primary tires in his first three stints, planning to make the red stint as short as possible. This plan almost came undone when a caution was called on lap 85 for Agustin Canapino spinning and stalling in a dangerous place. Race control left the pits open until Rosenqvist could pit, which vaulted him ahead of Scott Dixon, who he had been closely tailing before the Ganassi driver made his stop. However, the timing of this obvious opportunity to stop was less than ideal since it meant Rosenqvist would have to run 26 laps on reds.
He managed to pull away from Dixon after the restart — aided by two backmarkers between them — and then managed the gap. Needing to preserve the reds did mean, however, that trying to fight leader Alex Palou over the final stint would be overambitious.
“We had to obviously save the tires a bit,” said Rosenqvist, who was replaced by Palou at Ganassi at the end of 2020, “I think it wasn’t the winning strategy, but it was enough for a podium. Really happy with the comeback we did…
“It was a pretty straight shot in a final restart, and I was on the reds, [Palou] was on the blacks. Both fairly new tires. I thought I had a shot, but honestly the blacks were kind of as good as the reds in the restarts…at least from my point of view. I just couldn’t really attack him.
“Once I realized he was pulling away, I was like, ‘I probably have to save my tires now because otherwise I risk actually falling through the field in the last five laps.’ I was just kind of managing after a couple of laps, and I think I pretty much did the optimal stint time that I could with those tires.”