CHEVROLET IN NTT INDYCAR SERIES
THE THERMAL CLUB OPEN TEST
ARROW MCLAREN DRIVER TRANSCRIPT
FEBRUARY 1, 2023
PATO O’WARD, NO. 5 ARROW MCLAREN CHEVROLET:
Glad to get started back in the car this week?
“I’m ready to get back driving and ripping around in my Indy car. It’s been long. Way too long. It’s been a great offseason but I’m excited, I’m anxious, I’m really looking forward to getting back into the flow of everything. Working with the guys and the engineers and mechanics.”
“It’s a lot of new faces. I’m still in the process of learning all the names. It’s so cool to see we’re all growing. There’s been big steps each year, but in terms of personnel, this year has been a very big one. One reason being probably because of the third car, and the team is growing. It’s great to see, to see everyone’s enthusiasm. Everybody’s here for that one goal. We all put so much time and sacrifice and energy into making these racecars go quicker. We, as drivers, put it into how we can maximize it. Really excited to get this season underway.”
You’ve now got Gavin Ward. How has that transition been?
“Gavin is great. I’m a big fan of him. He, more than obviously trying to extract everything that our group can do in order to make our racecars quicker and more reliable, he really looks into how to get that performance. How can we make it easier on ourselves to find it and get it. I feel a lot of that comes with preparation that’s maybe not racecar related. Mental, physical, diet, I’m a huge believer in all those things from experiences I’ve had in my career. Going through the ranks, it’s so important to have. There are so many things that play into your performance that you have no idea.”
Did you have any concerns with McLaren adding more people, or is it more of a testament to the McLaren brand?
“That’s definitely not a rumor, right. I feel like it’s been so hard to find people in all departments. Form talking to not just the people on our team, but from other drivers or friends, it’s hard to find people. I trust the team. I think the group of people who are in charge know exactly what we need, and I trust they’re going to make the right decisions. From what I’ve seen, there’s so much talent. There already was, but so much more has been added on. It’s going to get us where we want to be.”
You were kind of a lead driver here over the past few years. Alex was a lead driver at his team. Has that been a change with Alex coming into the team?
“He’s been great to have around. We’ve all enjoyed the content days, the media that we’ve done with the team. At the end of the day, INDYCAR is as much as teammates will help in gathering data, it doesn’t mean that they’re going to specifically help you in what you need because it’s a series where you can really tailor the car to what you want rather than in, for example, Formula 1 where this is the car and you need to learn how to drive this certain car. In INDYCAR, it’s very different where you can tailor and customize it to what you want to feel like or to drive like. From past experience, I think Alex likes a car similar to what I do. I know he likes it to be to point well. From experience, I wasn’t there at Andretti for seven years like Alex was but from my experience it was an extremely strong car in the rear. I feel like our car is very different to that. I’m curious to see what he thinks and how he develops in where we can find some more time. I do think we have a very strong car in certain areas, but I definitely think he’s coming from a car where that other car has been strong than us at other racetracks. I feel like if we can find gains where we haven’t quite had a winning or podium car, that’s just going to help all of us, right? He’s been great. He’s been great to have around. I think he needed a fresh start and he’s excited to really work with all of us and create the strongest package.”
You had some tough ups and downs in terms of the car last year. Do you feel like you were able to diagnose some of that stuff this offseason and come into this year not wondering if the car will last like some of the races you had last year?
“For sure it’s been looked into. We’ve obviously looked for answers. Have we found them all? I really think it’s a hard statement to say because I feel like you can find and analyze reasons why things might have happened, but you never really know for sure. But what I do know is that we want to minimize those. The perfect thing would be to not have those issues, right? It’s possible for sure. The first two years I was with the team, I don’t think I never had a DNF. I had completed almost all laps all year, and last year, we had the best average qualifying positions we’ve had during a season. We had like four DNFs. One of those was unlucky. The others just had mishaps. It’s so hard to say. For sure it’s possible to make those a lot less than last year. We’re definitely starting this year with a clean slate and starting to work off the strong years we’ve built together.”
Was it important to have Will [Anderson] on your car for the 2023 INDYCAR season?
“I think it’s such an important relationship that you have with your race engineer. I’ve been working with Will since I joined the team, and he’s very calm. He’s in the same neighborhood as Taylor was in terms of voice volume and minimal speaking, which I enjoy. I think it’s good. I think it will obviously sound a little different, but I think it will be just fine.”
FELIX ROSENQVIST, NO. 6 ARROW MCLAREN CHEVROLET:
“I’ve been ready to go for a couple of months now. Things are finally kicking off. A lot of things to be excited about. New colors, new people in the team, another driver in the team. Another car. New partners. So, it’s super exciting. New track, that’s also fun. It’s not very normal in this series that we can go to a completely new place. No one has driven an Indy car here before. Good vibes.”
“It’s great to have some foundation in the team now at this point. I feel really at home. This will be the longest I’ve been with a team in quite a while, probably since 2014 when I did Formula 3. To be with the same team for a third year is huge for me with consistency. Basically, [we have] the same group as the previous year, some changes here and there. I have a new engineer this year, Chris Lawrence, who is a good friend of mine. He’s been on the car for many years on what used to be the No. 7 car, now the No. 6 car crew. I think what you look to is to improve all the small details. It’s so tight and as we said, have some standouts last year. I think we had some low points as well, so I think that’s what we’ve been targeting. How can we get rid of the lows and improve the highs a little bit more? In INDYCAR, it’s very tight. It’s small differences that make you go from, let’s say P10 to P1, it’s all within a couple of hundredths or tenths. It’s good to keep building on that foundation we laid. We ended the season on a very good note last year in Laguna Seca. Just trying to continue where we left off.”
What benefits and changes have you been getting with Alex [Rossi] coming on board?
“I think it’s always depends on what driver, what’s the dynamic of the group and all that, but my feelings have been that it’s very good. We had a chance to hang out quite a lot with Alex, and I think he’s well integrated at this point. A couple of days in the simulator and at the shop with media days and so on. I think the fit has been really good with him, me and Pato. I think on a trackside perspective, it’s obviously huge to have a third opinion of things. Every driver is different, and every driver’s opinion is valuable in its own way. I think everyone on the team knows how me and Pato operate at this point, and in our differences from driver to driver, but it will be really interesting to see what Alex thinks about the car, how we work, especially here at Thermal. That’s when we have time to look into operational things, bigger picture things maybe that we can improve as a team and we’re open to listening to him and hear what he has to say. Obviously he comes from a lot of success at Andretti, so we’re super excited to have him on board.”
How does it feel to be back with McLaren this year?
“I think it’s a massive opportunity to be back for a third year. I feel like I have all the tools I need to perform. I’m feeling pretty good with everyone at the car. There were so many things happening on and off the track, and as a team we really learned a lot from that we can bring into this season. So I think we will be tough this year. We have a lot of things in the bag to try early this season. A couple of things here at Thermal we want to try and going into the season, we have pinpointed some areas where we feel like we were lacking a little bit, like the short ovals, for example. I feel like we’ve done the best we can to attack all those areas and bring the best possible package we can going into the season.”
What kind of influence do you think [Gavin Ward] will have?
“I think he’s already had a lot of influence. He’s been very important to us in the transition to three cars. The transition to what we want to become in the future and the goals we have. We are very much on target I think with that thanks to him. He’s been great and I think everyone at the team agrees he’s been a great leader so far. It’s a new role for him. He’s been great. He’s a great leader. He’s a funny guy to be around. He brings good energy to the team, and I think he has had that ability to be funny and then switch it on in serious mode when he needs to which goes along with the vibe of our team in general. We have high hopes.”
How are you looking at this season?
“First of all, I don’t know what’s going to happen in the future. It’s a long time until next year. But as I said, it’s a great opportunity for me. I’m in a great spot. I’m in a well-performing team, not only at Arrow McLaren but my No. 6 car will be strong this year. I feel well with everyone around me. I feel like I have good support from the team to go and perform. I just try to do what I can do which is go fast forward and races.”
Testing at Thermal, what can the team learn?
“I think it’s always exciting to come to new tracks and it’s an amazing facility. We’re staying at the villas inside the track area. I’ve not been here before and I’m really blown away. I don’t know if there are ambitions to race here in the future, if that’s an option, but I’m pumped to be in California in January. There are worst places to be. Learning the track will be a good lesson to who will get up to speed the quickest. I think the closet one we race at is COTA, with the smooth F1-style layout. We’ll see. I just think everyone is taking on the challenge. It’s a fun challenge. You never really know until you hit the track.”
ALEXANDER ROSSI, NO. 7 ARROW MCLAREN CHEVROLET:
There are a lot of great things happening with Arrow McLaren right now. Do you feel that too?
“100%. I think it’s been very cool to watch them evolve and expand over the past couple of months. Obviously, I don’t have a benchmark of what they were before, certainly the commitment to performance and results goes without saying and is apparent on every level of the organization. I’m very excited to get on track, to stop talking about it, and get to work and start driving.”
“There were close to 40 hires over the last couple of months, so it’s been a good time to come in. Everyone’s finding a new role or position, and kind of learning who’s who, and finding everyone’s strengths and weaknesses.”
Does this have the ingredients to have a really good breakout year for you?
“I hope so. I mean, it’s a fantastic organization whose results speak for themselves. I think that what they’ve done in the past couple of years is very impressive. They’re a great organization with great partners and great people and getting to work now with GM and Chevy has been pretty cool as well; to see what they’re doing and to push the program forward. Like Is aid, it’s been a lot of conversations and things in theory, and we don’t really know anything until we get on track, but from where we sit, we’re very, very excited for what’s to come.”
What’s it like working with Gavin Ward? You both have Formula 1 backgrounds. Does it help you both speak the same language?
“I think Gavin is a fantastic leader but also his background is really in everything. Whether it’s engineering, systems engineering or aerodynamics, and now kind of an all-encompassing role that has that technical director standpoint but also that team manager and team principal standpoint. He’s someone who his door is always open and he’s a very involved kind of person from every aspect of the whole organization. I think that’s been really cool to see and work with him on. He’s someone who understands the ins and outs of the sport from top to bottom and I think his big thing is maximizing people and their strengths. What they can bring to the table. If you can do that every single day and every single event, then you’re going to set yourself up in a good position.”
What’s it like being teammates with Felix [Rosenqvist] and Pato [O’Ward] so far?
“We haven’t really done anything yet other than some meetings and team activities together. I have a lot of respect for what they’ve done in INDYCAR, and also their prior careers. I think that we will all bring something a little bit different to the table which I think is unique in terms of not only personalities but also driving styles and experience levels. I think that we have the ingredients to really be able to develop the team and continue to push the team forward at a better level than what they’ve shown in the past. It’s been a really positive experience.”
Alex Rossi on testing at Thermal Club…
“You’re introducing INDYCAR to a demographic that has an interest in racing with some decent capital behind them. They may not know of INDYCAR. They may have known about INDYCAR but have not seen it in person, so what we’re doing is we’re able to bring and showcase what we believe is the best series in the world in front of people who are passionate about motorsports, participating in motorsports themselves and maybe haven’t seen it.”
How much time have you spent with [Craig] Hampson before the test? What has that been like?
“I’ve known Craig since 2016. He was at Andretti when I was there and I got to work with him a little bit. We’ve always been friendly in the paddock. That was a critical thing for me in terms of making the switch to Arrow McLaren was being able to work with Craig and kind of continue that relationship and develop it to be working together on the same car and same program. I have a huge amount of respect for what Craig has accomplished in his career. I think he’s a brilliant engineer and a great guy. His track record speaks for itself. Regardless of anything, I’m excited to get the chance to work with him.”
Do you have a better sense over the past couple of months of why this team has become so successful so quickly consistently versus competing with them over the last couple of years?
“I think there is just a very clear path in terms of what they’re trying to accomplish whether that’s on a daily, weekly, or monthly timeframe. There’s a very black and white set of objectives and reasons behind those objectives in terms of the development of the car, development of the people, the transition of people. I think there’s a lot of very detail-oriented people that are in a management role of the team, or senior role. With that comes a lot of structure down the pipeline that you’re very clearly able to see; path of progress as you go into the season.”
TONY KANAAN, NO. 66 ARROW MCLAREN CHEVROLET – INDIANAPOLIS 500 ONLY:
Considering how close you go to winning the Indy 500 last year, has that made you want it more?
“You’re as good as your last result. When you start coming up to my age, which is 48, people ask you that question. People doubt you. People say, “Maybe is it time?” All those questions. The only way to reassure, even yourself. That weighs a lot also in my decisions going forward. Anything can happen in the 500, but as long as I have it in my head that I’m competitive. But if I think I still have the possibility to win, I will keep trying. But also I need others to see that.”
As far as what Arrow McLaren has done since coming to INDYCAR, it’s been quite impressive. Are we on the verge of really seeing McLaren, the McLaren influence really raise the level of competition in INDYCAR?
“Yeah, I mean, think about we hired so far 40 more employees since we went from three cars in Indy, two full-time to three full-time. I think Zak [Brown] has a vision that’s very aggressive, and he wants to grow the team and he wants to win. That’s all he cares. He’s a racer. Like a lot of the team owners in this series. Yeah, we have grown fast, and it’s going to be up to us to make sure that we keep up the expectations that he’s putting on us.”
By bringing you on board, Zak has the finishers from positions 2 through 5 of last year’s Indianapolis 500. In a lot of ways, I think it’s a great situation to be in based off last year’s race.
“Yeah, I think if you take the example with Chip last year, he put all his cars in the top 12 and he put himself in a position that he was going to be covered to win the Indy 500 if something happened to one of his cars, and look what happened. We had five cars, and we made it happen. Two of them had an issue, but the other two covered the bases. Yeah, I like our chances a lot.”
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