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Rosenqvist’s McLaren future “all depends on the Palou case”

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In opening practice for Nashville’s Music City Grand Prix, Rosenqvist looked as strong as he did at another bumpy street course, Toronto, where he went on to finish on the podium. Today, he was second fastest, outpacing all except rookie Christian Lundgaard.

Yet Rosenqvist’s job is under threat due to McLaren signing defending champion Alex Palou – a matter that is set to go to court, due to Palou’s current team Chip Ganassi Racing claiming it had the rights to its driver for 2023. Although Arrow McLaren SP is expanding to three cars next year, incumbent Pato O’Ward and new arrival Alexander Rossi are already confirmed.

Asked about his contract situation with McLaren – which appeared to be somewhat clarified in late June but is now in question once more – Rosenqvist appeared unwilling to discuss it, saying it was a private matter between himself and McLaren CEO Zak Brown.

“I prefer not to talk about contracts,” said the 30-year-old Swede, who has scored two pole positions this year. “That’s why they’re contracts, because they’re made for you and the other signing party. It’s not for the public to know.”

However, pushed on the matter, he admitted: “I’m mainly focused on staying with my current team, AMSP… We had a good run last couple of races. I feel happy working with my engineer, my mechanics. Obviously it’s another car coming to the team next year. I think it’s all depending on the Palou case what’s going to happen with me.

“But, yeah, that’s all I’m focused on right now. I’m just trying to win the race. I think we’ve been close a couple times. Just focus on doing well, winning races. That’s pretty much all I can do… try not to get distracted by what’s going on in the background.”

Rosenqvist played down how the reports of McLaren’s signing of Palou and Oscar Piastri affected him.

“These things doesn’t concern me at all. You read stuff. You also don’t know what’s true or not. There’s obviously a lot of rumors, people that think they know what’s going on. What’s actually the truth, that’s only the people involved that knows.”

However, he then agreed that “We never seen a case like this that’s going on right now. Yeah, at least you guys get something to write about! That’s a good thing in the end.”

The contractual situation with Piastri in Formula 1 – whereby Alpine announced it was promoting the 2021 F2 champion to the race team for 2023, before Piastri denied it and it later emerged that McLaren wants him to replace the underperforming Daniel Ricciardo – was “obviously a shock” said Rosenqvist. But he added: “We don’t know what actually happened. Maybe that’s just a clear-cut deal that was made and it was all done in the correct way. Like we don’t know that. That’s why I don’t really weigh an opinion.

“The shock factor for sure is big. It’s big news. But if it’s right or wrong, whatever it is, I’m not the one to judge.”

Rosenqvist said his own situation was “mainly distracting” for the #7 branch of the Arrow McLaren SP crew, and audibly wondered if it had led to the issue that saw him lose a lot of straightline speed while leading at Indy road course last week, due to a dragging brake.

“It’s not the optimal case,” he said. “I think we’ve done a good job focusing, but… we had a run of mechanical failures, a bit of slipups here and there. I’m sure these things doesn’t help.”

He later added: “I think I’m always for negotiating or doing deals here and there. The thing I think is, that’s for the off-season, not the season. Obviously this whole thing has opened very early in the year. I think it’s not optimal for our team. I think it affects people in the organization. It’s not good.

“But it is the way it is, right? Like it happens. We’re professionals. We have to deliver, not only me, like I said; this affects other guys on the team… But you just have to jump in the car and put on your helmet and forget about it. End of the day, it’s simple as that. I just drive the car. That’s what I have to do better than ever before right now.”

Asked if he truly is able to focus in these circumstances, Rosenqvist said: “I would lie if I said the pressure is not higher. Definitely the pressure gets higher naturally over the season. When you don’t know what you’re going to do, it’s always important more to perform. That’s just a fact.

“I think I respond well to that. I always have pressure, but I feel like I probably stepped up a little bit since things have become unclear. That’s a good thing, right? Maybe I need to be in this situation all the time!”

Asked if he will pursue other IndyCar avenues should the McLaren relationship end, Rosenqvist responded, “That we will see.”

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