NTT IndyCar Series
Rd. 4 – Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach (USA)
Felix Rosenqvist was the top rookie in Sunday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, round four of the NTT IndyCar Series season, but was nonetheless left lamenting what could have been following a costly qualifying crash.
On his first-ever visit to the Long Beach street track, Rosenqvist looked on course to vie for a maiden IndyCar pole position courtesy of a strong run in Saturday’s qualifying session, where he initially progressed from the opening group stages and later threw in the second-fastest lap of the weekend thus far in the Top 12 segment.
Rosenqvist’s time would have been enough to see him through to the concluding Firestone Fast Six shootout, but – in pursuit of yet another improvement – the Swede misjudged a braking zone on his following lap, crashing his Chip Ganassi Racing machine into the barriers and bringing out the red flags.
With IndyCar rules stripping drivers of their fastest two laps if causing a qualifying stoppage, Rosenqvist was forced to see his Fast Six-sufficient time deleted, instead dropping him to 12th on the grid – a less-than-ideal position at any track, and even less so within the tight confines of a street course.
“It was a classic driver mistake,” says Felix Rosenqvist. “It probably looked a bit silly from the outside since I’d already set a time good enough to advance, but I know how quickly things can change in street track qualifying. The grip improves throughout and you need to push the entire way to make sure you’re not leapfrogged. Also, the instruction from the team was to keep pushing on for another lap. Hindsight is a wonderful thing and we now know it wasn’t necessary, but there and then I think it was the right decision.”
In the race on Sunday, Rosenqvist then found himself stuck in traffic, notably as he came up to lap fellow countryman Marcus Ericsson during a critical pit stop phase. After 85 largely undramatic laps, Rosenqvist eventually came home in tenth place, as the top rookie.
“It was quite a static race,” Rosenqvist continues. “We were searching for opportunities to improve, but it never really happened. I think our race was lost after the first pit stop, when we needed some clear air but got stuck behind Ericsson. In IndyCar, you’re racing even if you’re a lap down and that was probably his instructions, but we lost a lot of lap time behind him. With that, we lost (James) Hinchcliffe as well.
“After that, it was sort of just following the others and trying to make a difference. The top ten was evenly matched today so it was not easy, but we know we have the pace and we’ll keep working hard on the NTT DATA car going forwards.”
Victory at Long Beach went to Alexander Rossi, the Californian winning his home race for the second year in a row.
The next round of the NTT IndyCar Series takes place at the road course version of Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 11; a precursor event to the blue-riband Indy 500.
RESULTS (TOP FIVE)
Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach
1: Alexander Rossi (USA, Andretti), 85 laps
2: Josef Newgarden (USA, Penske), +20.235s
3: Scott Dixon (NZL, Ganassi), +25.574s
4: Graham Rahal (USA, RLL), +26.458s
5: Ryan Hunter-Reay (USA, Andretti), +29.344s
10: Felix Rosenqvist (SWE, Ganassi), +41.324s
STANDINGS (TOP FIVE)
After 4/17 races
1: Josef Newgarden (USA, Penske), 166 p.
2: Alexander Rossi (USA, Andretti), 138 p.
3: Scott Dixon (NZL, Ganassi), 133 p.
4: Takuma Sato (JPN, RLL), 116 p.
5: Ryan Hunter-Reay (USA, Andretti), 96 p.
12: Felix Rosenqvist (SWE, Ganassi), 80 p.