The AMSP full-timers will line up seventh and eighth, the inside and middle places on the third row of the 11 x 3 grid, and it will be their best start to the Memorial Day Weekend classic for both of them. O’Ward’s previous best was 15e and Rosenqvist’s was 14e†
“I think it’s very good that we have both cars in the same row,” said O’Ward, who finished sixth and fourth in his first two 500s. “It’s me, Felix… and Romain [Grosjean of Andretti Autosport-Honda]†
“Romain has never done an Indy 500 start before. That will definitely be new to him, so I think the most important thing is to be aware of who is around you, and not get too excited about certain things. It’s 200 laps, it’s so, so long. Last year I lost two positions at the start or something, but if you do the first pit stop sequence right you can go up 10 or 12 positions… I think we’re in a great place to run a really good race . †
Rosenqvist, who has yet to be confirmed by McLaren CEO Zak Brown as keeping his drive for 2023, has issued a warning.
“It’s always a little scary standing next to your teammate because it’s the last person you want to take out of a race,” he smiled. “I’m not going to take anyone out of the race and I don’t think they are, but once we’re settled in I think it helps because then you can gain a strategic advantage when that situation happens.” occurs.
“But honestly, we’re also competitors, we want to beat each other, so I don’t think it really changes much. Maybe just keep a little extra attention at the start because I don’t want to get a call from Mr. Brown!”
Rosenqvist said his car was good at Indy last year but thinks he has his best Speedway car yet this year. However, he added: “It’s also kind of about capturing it on race day. Over the past few weeks I had a phenomenal car at times, some sessions it was average, but I think if you take the average for the month it’s probably a lot higher than other teams. There are a few cars that still look a little stronger, but for pure handling we are definitely one of the best cars.”
O’Ward, meanwhile, emphasized that most of the driving order changes were likely the result of quick pit stops and strong in- and out-laps.
“I think there’s a huge emphasis on how smoothly you can do those pit stop sequences,” he said. “I really think you make or break your race there. As good as a car is, when you’re on a train of 10, you don’t pass anyone until someone has a moment or someone doesn’t time a sleep correctly and makes a mistake.
“But if no one makes a mistake, you save no one. If you’re in the first three or four, especially the first or two, then yes. But other than that, you have to wait for them to make a mistake or get them in the pit stop order…
“It’s such a long race, it’s all about doing your pit stops correctly, getting your points, the guys have to make the right decisions about strategy… Those 200 laps are all about keeping clean, in front of your car caring, being aware of your surroundings, and once the final phase kicks in and you see what strategies are going on, I think you can be a little more aggressive on certain things.”
Both O’Ward and Rosenqvist said question marks remain about Chevrolet and Honda’s relative fuel economy because, in one practice, they didn’t know whether their rivals had low or high fuel levels, rich or lean fuel blends, or old or new tires. .
“We ran in the pack and through” [fuel] blends and I’m very happy with where we are,” said O’Ward. “It’s hard to know where people are, you know? It’s hard to know where Ganassi Hondas are when you’re saving fuel or when you’re at full power, you don’t know if they’re full power or fuel efficient. But I think we’re in a really good place.”
Rosenqvist made the point that when it comes to fuel economy, a sensitive chassis can make all the difference.
“It’s a lot about how close you can follow another car,” he said, “because the closer you can follow, the leaner you can go in your mixture and take more advantage of the slipstream of the guy in front of you and therefore spend less fuel.
“So [fuel mileage] is a lot about the actual car itself, not just the engine. Obviously if you’re leading the race it all has to do with the engine consumption, but honestly I don’t know. We will see.”
Felix Rosenqvist, Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet
Photo By: Phillip Abbott / Motorsport Images