Felix Rosenqvist arrived on the NTT IndyCar Series arena with convincing power by finishing fourth in Sunday’s season-opening round on the streets of St. Petersburg in Florida, USA, having led for a large proportion of the race.
Swede Rosenqvist, making his debut in the American single-seater championship this year, emphatically presented himself in his new environment as he immediately joined the scrap for victory at the first time of asking.
The 27-year-old rookie raised a few eyebrows by going third fastest in qualifying on Saturday, leading five-time champion team-mate Scott Dixon in all Chip Ganassi Racing second row of the grid, and continued to trouble his more experienced rivals in the race itself.
Rosenqvist instantly snatched second at the start, and then sensationally held the lead for 31 laps (of 110) after spectacularly passing pole-sitter Will Power (Penske) with locked tyres in the early stages of the race.
“It’s a dream result in many ways; it’s more than I expected,” says Felix Rosenqvist. “I’m really happy with how this weekend went, but there is still room for improvement in some small details – that’s what separated me from the podium or perhaps even a win today. The NTT Data Honda was really good, however, and I want to thank Chip Ganassi Racing for giving me a fantastic race car today. It’s a great start to my rookie season.”
After overtaking Power for the lead, Rosenqvist ultimately dropped back to fourth in the second half of the race following some pit stop glitches, completing a demanding race that lasted for over two hours underneath Florida’s intense sun.
“This was the toughest race I’ve ever done,” Rosenqvist admits. “I’m knackered. Driving like this for over two hours between the walls, with every second counting and with no power steering, is a real physical and mental challenge. To add to that, I trapped a nerve in my right arm and had to drive the last 40 laps basically with just one arm. I’m glad I’ve stepped up my training this winter and I’m proud to have achieved what I did today. We’ve got a great platform to build on for the rest of the season.”
The race in St. Petersburg was eventually won by Josef Newgarden(Penske), with Dixon second for Ganassi and Power taking third ahead of Rosenqvist. As such, Rosenqvist was beaten only by three previous IndyCar champions, coming home as comfortably the top rookie.
The next NTT IndyCar Series round takes place at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, in two weeks.
RESULTS – ST. PETERSBURG (TOP FIVE)
1: Josef Newgarden (USA, Penske), 110 laps
2: Scott Dixon (NZL, Ganassi), +2.899s
3: Will Power (AUS, Penske), +12.744s
4: Felix Rosenqvist (SWE, Ganassi), +14.585s
5: Alexander Rossi (USA, Andretti), +18.361s
STANDINGS (TOP FIVE)
1: Josef Newgarden (USA, Penske), 53 p.
2: Scott Dixon (NZL, Ganassi), 40 p.
3: Will Power (AUS, Penske), 37 p.
4: Felix Rosenqvist (SWE, Ganassi), 33 p.
5: Alexander Rossi (USA, Andretti), 31 p.