IndyCar: Notebook from Palm Springs -Tuesday Part 1

Hello from the Palm Springs Convention Center, California, for the NTT IndyCar Series Media Content Days to introduce and ask questions to all this season’s drivers over the next few days.


Felix Rosenqvist – #6 Arrow McLaren Chevy

Felix Rosenqvist
Felix Rosenqvist                                       Photo by Lucille Dust/AR1

Felix Rosenqvist, driver of the #6 Arrow McLaren Chevy, was the first driver to start off the day.  The Swede is happy to be on the same team for the third year, especially after the Alex Palou going to McLaren situation that drew significant attention in the middle of last season.

Rosenqvist is super excited to be adding teammate Alexander Rossi as the driver of the third car this season for Arrow McLaren SP and is looking forward to learning things from the new teammate on the tracks where the team lacked speed, like the short ovals.

“On a trackside perspective, it’s obviously huge to always have a third opinion on things. Every driver is different. Every driver’s opinion is valuable in its own way. I think everyone in the team knows how me and Pato operate at this point, our differences from driver to driver.”

“It will really be interesting to see what Alex thinks about the car, how we work. Especially here at Thermal because that’s when we have time to look into operational  things, bigger picture things that maybe we can improve as a team. We’re very open to listen to him, hear what he has to say. Obviously, he comes from a lot of success at Andretti.”

“Yeah, we’re super excited to have him on board.”


Alexander Rossi – #7 Arrow McLaren Chevy

Alexander Rossi                          Photo by Lucille Dust/AR1

Alexander Rossi, the driver of  the #7 Arrow McLaren Chevy, is still learning the names of all the people working at McLaren.  The American is impressed that Zak Brown, Chief Executive of McLaren Racing, keeps everyone up to date despite how busy he is.

” I think there were like close to 40 hires over the organization the past couple months. It’s been kind of a good time to come in because everyone is finding a new role and position and kind of learning who’s who, finding everyone’s strengths and weaknesses.” Rossi stated.

When asked about the difference between the team he left after seven years, Andretti Autosport and Arrow McLaren, Rossi said, “Certainly, it’s the largest kind of team switch. I’ve obviously driven for different teams in the past in Europe, in sports cars, whatever, but never really in my full-time job, if you will. I’ve driven for the same organization for a very long time and have a lot of respect and fabulous memories with those people.”

“So, yeah, it has been a big kind of shift, trying to compare and contrast areas that I can bring kind of recommendations and experience to maybe help fill the gaps that exist at Arrow McLaren.”


Pato O’Ward – #5 Arrow McLaren Chevy

Pato O’Ward                                             Photo by Lucille Dust/AR1

Pato O’Ward, the driver of the #5 Arrow McLaren Chevy, is also happy with the team expansion and the upcoming season with Alexander Rossi as his new teammate.  After taking six weeks off to clear his head and do some fun things, which he had not done in the offseason for a few years.

“I love being on the water. So any activity that’s on there, just being at the beach to me, is my favorite thing to do after driving race cars.”

The Mexican is now ready to get back in the race car and improve on last year’s issues.

“Last year, we had the best, like, average qualifying positions that we had during a season. But we had four DNFs. One of those was maybe unlucky, the other ones were just a mishap.”

“It’s so hard to say. But definitely it’s possible to make those a lot less than they were last year. Last year was for sure not a fluke, but like I was very surprised because we had never had those issues, at least to that extent.”

“So definitely just starting this year with a clean blank, just starting to work off the strong years that we’ve built together.”


Marcus Ericsson – #8 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Marcus Ericsson                                 Photo by Lucille Dust/AR1

The reigning Indy 500 winner, Marcus Ericsson, is motivated to finish this season with a championship.  Leading the points until the season’s final race, the Chip Ganassi Racing driver would like to be number one at the end of this season.

“I had a chance going into the final race, but I was also leading the championship for a long time last year. I’m still a bit pissed off about the ending of last year because I felt we were having a really strong year, then the last three races or so we just fell off a little bit. That was disappointing.”

Ericsson was asked about developing his race craft,  “I think race craft is something I learned a lot in my Formula 1 years. Planning a race, driving, thinking longer ahead in stints, taking care of my tires, fuel, stuff like that. I think my race craft, I really started to master that in Formula 1. It was one of my big strengths in F1.”

“I feel like I brought that to INDYCAR, and it’s been my strength really from year one. I felt like I was pretty good in the races.”

“Of course, you always try to become better and better. I try and analyze a lot and work hard with my engineers to understand and be involved in a lot of things. I think that helps me on race day to be prepared.”

“It’s the same thing; that’s what we’ve been working on hard now in the off-season to try and improve on the qualifying side, to analyze and understand why we’re lacking a little bit more there comparing to the races.”


Alex Palou – #10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda
Marcus Armstrong – #11 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Alex Palou and Marcus Armstrong                              Photo by Lucille Dust/AR1

Ganassi Racing teammates Alex Palou and Marcus Armstrong, showed up in matching driver suits this morning to discuss their plans for the 2023 season.

Palou, the NTT INDYCAR series 2021 Champion, had a crazy season last year with the McLaren announcement that he would be driving with them in 2023.  Being contracted to Ganassi Racing until 2023, the two teams struggled to keep the controversy from interrupting the chance of another championship for the Spaniard.

Palou expressed his intentions for 2023.  “In regards to sharing time between both parties, we set it in the way that I will be focused on INDYCAR during the INDYCAR season, then once it’s done and once we try and get to 100%, then I’ll be focused on the other side (F1 with McLaren).”

Marcus Armstrong is the rookie this season and is also a countryman to his teammate, Scott Dixon.   Despite the age difference, Armstrong (born in 2000) admits to watching Dixon become a sports icon in New Zealand.

“I’ve been watching him on TV since I was a kid, so… Literally a kid.”

“It’s cool because INDYCAR is massive where I’m from because of him, I think. I’ve always been so attracted to this championship. Of course, I spent my entire life chasing F1. You can never say ‘never.’ If I’m honest with you, I’m happy where I am now. It’s a dream come true.”

Coming from the F2 series, the 22-year-old compares his new career to the car he used to drive.

“I mean, in F2, we don’t have power steering. I know that INDYCAR is notoriously physically demanding, which again is part of the challenge and cool. Certainly cool to watch on TV when you’re wrestling with the car like it’s an alligator.”

“It something I’m used to. If I’m honest, actually, the only time I’ve ever driven a car with power steering is when I did an F1 test, a couple of one-off days in a GT car. I’m well accustomed to not having power steering.”

Armstrong joins arguably the strongest team on the grid.

With Dixon’s six crowns, Alex Palou’s sole series win in 2021, and Marcus Ericsson’s Indianapolis 500 triumph on debut in 2022, it’s an esteemed driver pool.

“Fundamentally, I need to get on it straight away,” said Armstrong.

“I have all the information in the world really. Obviously (Palou has) won a championship. Scott has won more than a couple. Marcus (Ericsson) won the Indy 500.

“It’s a very accomplished group. I have all the information to learn from, which is really cool.

“I just need to hit the ground running, do well immediately. That’s my target and to maximize myself from the beginning.

“Obviously I understand how competitive this championship is, and I need to learn a new car with limited test days, but that’s part of the challenge.

“Like I said before, the organization and the strategic view that Ganassi has, I think it’s going to help me for that.

“I hope that we can hit the ground running, then see what we can do afterwards.”

Armstrong will run with green Honda Ridgeline livery at select races in addition to backing from the American Legion.

Simon Pagenaud – #60 Meyer Shank Racing Honda

Simon Pagenaud                                                      Photo by Lucille Dust/AR1

Coming off a win in the Daytona Rolex 24 this past weekend, a smiling Simon Pagenaud discussed his team’s outlook for 2023 (Meyer Shank Racing) after running the sportscar endurance race.

“I think I’m extremely proud for myself, which is very important as a driver, especially at this point of your career. You just want to be proud about what you’ve done. I’ve got many more years to go and more races I want to clinch. I have a list of things I want to do, that’s for sure.”

“So proud of myself for the achievement, but also proud of the team. We talked about it in press conferences, but this team is incredible. The calm and the way they run this race is the best I’ve ever seen. They are able to be a relaxed team with having everything in control. I’m really proud to be part of it. I’m really proud to bring my experience to the team. Seeing them go like this is spectacular. All the success that we’re having is just incredible.”

The Frenchman then changed the conversation to the coming IndyCar season and what the team needs to focus on for better performance.

“The tire is the most important thing on the race car, especially when you’re in a series like INDYCAR right now that is so close. We know the car so well that the margin for improvements are very small.”

“If you can just extract a little bit more out of the tire, you’re going to have a better advantage. Penske did that last year, they figured out what it was. We didn’t. The goal for us (Meyer Shank) is to figure that out with the little testing we get.”

“It’s tough. It’s the difference between sports cars and INDYCAR is sports cars you can test as much as you want, like we did this winter. You kind of know what you have going into the first race.”


Santino Ferrucci – #14 AJ Foyt Racing Chevy

Santino Ferrucci                                             Photo by Lucille Dust/AR1

Santino Ferrucci joined the AJ Foyt Racing team for the 2023 season.  The 24 year old, started in the NTT INDYCAR Series back in 2018 and has driven for several teams over the past five years.

“I think the coolest thing was last year I’ve been basically inside five INDYCAR teams, starting the year off with Rahal, then Dreyer, then Juncos, then Penske, and at the very end, Foyt. Kind of a weird way of seeing how operations work, which is unique for me. I think it’s really a unique position as a driver to see.”

“Yeah, to get that call from Penske, to realize they’re really looking at me, at who I’ve become, the talent that I have, it’s just like one of those serious, even though I didn’t get to drive the car, pat on the back, at least for me, a huge step for my career forward.”

“I can’t thank them enough for even having the opportunity to go there, spend time with engineers, being put on the sim with them, being involved in that week. Playing a pretend Penske driver for a week was pretty awesome, I’m not going to lie.”

Ferrucci was asked about going to his new team and helping them turn the corner on their performance.

“If you look back at the results, they’re really not a reflection of the actual speed of the car, in my opinion. I think that having someone like Michael Cannon come onboard to really help organize this team, put them on the right track, give them what he calls ‘Racing 101.’ We needed some consistency. I think that was the biggest thing. That’s what we’re hoping to really find.”

“I’d like to see this team back inside the top 10 consistently, then go from there. We got to be a little bit realistic. It is tough coming off of where the team has finished in the last couple years. We definitely can see a lot of rapid growth hopefully throughout the winter.”

Ferrucci did bring his new helmet for this season.  It is quite colorful and he explained the 90s theme, which was a surprise to him.

“I guess the TV show from the ’90s is,  “Saved By the Bell.” I did not grow up watching “Saved By the Bell.” “Saved By the Bell” obviously is the theme with Troy (Lee). I just wanted something ’90s-like. Yung Gravy, who is kind of like a hip artist, has given me a little bit of the inspiration from some of his album colors for coloring on your techno grid.”

“We’re just going to keep it different. The other side is actually from my first designed Troy helmet, back to my first full-time season. I actually like the design a lot. I just wanted to have some purple.”

Lucille Dust reporting live from Palm Springs, California