NASHVILLE – Felix Rosenqvist’s motorsport future has suddenly become more uncertain.
On June 23, a McLaren Racing press release and subsequent quotes from Swedish driver and McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown stated unequivocally that there were only two options – IndyCar or Formula E. Signed and unsigned contracts, McLaren Racing Brown’s chess pieces carried very precisely and what If the driver’s own desires for his career will eventually pay off.
After multiple reports that Rosenqvist was not under contract with McLaren Racing beyond 2022 – contrary to the June 23 press release – the IndyCar driver spoke to the media after Friday practice for the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix but declined to elaborate.
“This is between me and Zack. Frankly, I prefer not to talk about contracts,” Rosenqvist said. “That’s why they are called contracts—because they were made for you and the other signatory. Not for the public to know.
But what he said after this answer pulled the curtains back a bit. But first, let’s reconsider how we got here.
How Alex Ballou, Daniel Ricciardo and Oscar Piastre Affect Rosenqvist’s Future
A month ago in mid-Ohio – the first race to follow the McLaren-Rosenqvist news statement – the Swede was reluctant to reveal his future favorite, but was delighted with the fact that he was wrapping himself around a familiar team wherever Brown stuck him.
“I know I will continue with McLaren, and I think that’s the main good news,” he said. “I want to be with the team, and I enjoy working with Zach and everyone there. I was talking to both of them and I had to agree terms for both. It’s almost like two contracts, and Zac has the final say on what it’s going to be.”
Two weeks later, after his first podium with Arrow McLaren SP in a year and a half with the team, Rosenqvist felt even more emboldened. He said, “I want to be where I am now.” “I think Arrow McLaren SP has pretty much become my home, but it’s up to Zack. He’s the guy who takes the steps.
“But I think if Zach was sure I was going to Formula E, he would have already said so. I’ll take that chance, and if there’s a chance for me to be here next year, I’ll try to prove it.”
Earlier that week, McLaren Racing announced its disputed signing with Alex Palou on a multi-year deal to drive somewhere across the McLaren family in 2023 and beyond. Given the transformative nature of Palou from his championship-winning ride, many assumed his new deal included a Formula 1 ride (either in 2023 or ’24) to go with the F1 test outlined in the release. Even with a huge salary increase, why would the defending champion leave his career to a team that hasn’t reached the heights of Ganassi’s once, if not for bigger and better things?
Since then, the Associated Press reported in late July that McLaren F1 incumbent Daniel Ricciardo had a driver option for the final year of his current deal – meaning McLaren didn’t have the ability to promise Palou the 2023 journey at the height of motorsport. And this week, it was reported by several reports that McLaren has signed 2021 Formula 2 champion Oscar Piastre to the F1 race, hoping to buy Ricciardo from his senior year or hoping he’ll walk away.
So how does it all include Rosenqvist?
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Under the assumption, Palou hasn’t been – and may not have been – assigned to McLaren’s fragile F1 seat – he will almost certainly race alongside current AMSP driver (Pato O’Ward) and future (Alexander Rossi) for next season. Such a move, under the guise of Rosenqvist’s June 23 launch, would send Rosenqvist into Formula E.
If only it could be that simple.
Complicating all of that is Chip Ganassi Racing’s ongoing lawsuit against Palou, which was filed on July 25, accusing the 2021 IndyCar champion of breach of contract and fiduciary duty. the reason? Ganassi thinks he holds a valid team option in Palou for 2023 in IndyCar. Hours before McLaren announced Palo’s claim in a statement published on the evening of July 12, Ganassi sent out his announcement to close Palo for the next season. After two weeks of back-and-forth motions, including the CGR for a preliminary injunction, expedited discovery, and Palou to take the case to federal court, the two sides are set to hold their first formal hearing via the default mode conference, scheduling August 9. .
Even if Ganassi’s desire for a speedy hearing on the initial injunction – which is supposed to prevent Palou from officially joining McLaren Racing in any capacity until the case is settled – is granted by August 30, it is unclear how long it will take. Lawyers told IndyStar, however, that it would take weeks, if not months. Before moving the case to federal court, the original judge in the case had scheduled a hearing in early October.
Such a delay could severely affect Rosenqvist’s increasingly fragile future. It is still unknown if Rosenqvist is under contract as McLaren announced, the team has a driver option for 2023 that can be picked up until the end of September or signed for free with another team after this season.
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If a judge rules McLaren’s deal with Ballou is in place before the end of September, and puts him in the team’s Indy car, McLaren would have no reason to choose the IndyCar option for 2023 over Rosenqvist. But if the issue were to continue at the end of the month, McLaren would have found its way into the mess all the signatures were headed towards.
They would risk signing up to Rosenqvist to ride IndyCar – and with the possibility that they could land in Palou and not have an F1 or IndyCar seat for him. A chance in Formula E for the IndyCar champ has never been this way. And if McLaren allows its option of passing Rosenqvist, the team risks losing him and Palo.
“I think it all depends on the Ballou case, in terms of what’s going to happen with me,” Rosenqvist said Friday. “The Formula E stuff, that’s kind of secondary at this point. I’m mainly focused on what I’m doing here and now, and I’m not too distracted by what’s going on in the background.”
Rosenqvist hints at changing plans
So why isn’t Rosenqvist put into Formula E after September, if Palou is forced to stay with Ganassi, and we head back to IndyCar in 2023? This is possible if McLaren’s news release is accurate. But IndyStar’s request to McLaren Racing for comment on Rosenqvist’s future was not returned.
When IndyStar asked Rosenqvist if he would follow the IndyCar opportunity outside of McLaren, he said, “We’ll see.”
That doesn’t sound like a driver who has a Formula E contract ready for Brown to enforce. The two parties may have reached a handshake-only deal but no contract was signed and Rosenqvist decided he’d rather stay in IndyCar at almost any cost. There might still be some sort of “IndyCar out” that Rosenqvist has if he’s going to get a show elsewhere.
But with no one answering those questions, it’s notable that Palo’s uncertain future comes to the fore and has aligned with Rosenqvist’s bold stance toward wanting to stay in IndyCar.
“It’s not optimal. I think I’ve always been in favor of negotiating and doing deals here and there, but that’s for off-season – not in season, except that this opened very early this year,” Rosenqvist said on Friday. It affects the people in the organization, which is not good, but that is the case.
“Half of these things don’t bother me at all, and you read things, and you don’t know what’s true or not. There are obviously a lot of rumors and people who think they know what’s going on, but obviously that’s not the truth that only the people involved know. But As long as it doesn’t distract us too much, I think we’re good and we’ll just focus on what worries me.
“The rest is meaningless.”
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