Arrow McLaren to replace Rossi with Lundgaard in yet another driver lineup change for IndyCar team


Arrow McLaren Racing is making another driver lineup change and will replace former Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi with Christian Lundgaard next season.

The 22-year-old Danish driver will leave Rahal Letterman Lanigan, the team that brought him out of the Formula 1 ladder to IndyCar for one race in 2021 and then signed him to a full-time deal in the American open wheel series. Lundgaard has won once, scored three podiums and two poles in 43 career starts and was at the top of this year’s class of IndyCar free agents.

Rossi, who won the Indy 500 in 2016 as a rookie with Andretti Global, joined Arrow McLaren last year. He scored only his second podium since joining the team earlier this season at Laguna Seca; at the time, many thought it had saved the former F1 drivers’ job.

Ultimately, team principal Gavin Ward and Rossi’s manager father, Pieter, told The Associated Press, the two sides could not agree to terms.

“We talked for months,” Pieter Rossi told AP. “We just, quite simply, couldn’t come to terms on a lot of the bits, and that’s OK.”

The driver change confirmed Tuesday leaked as Rossi was actively testing at Gateway outside St. Louis. McLaren gave AP a statement on his behalf: “My time at Arrow McLaren, while it’s been only short two seasons, has been rewarding in many ways. I’m grateful to have been part of the team’s internal growth.

“The No. 7 crew is fantastic, and I’ve built a lot of long-lasting friendships with the team,” Rossi added, noting he had multiple conversations with team leaders over the past several months. “The mutual decision to part ways is amicable. I’m very confident with current discussions in the paddock to land a new spot. I’ll have good news to follow soon, and meanwhile I’m focused on a top-five finish in the 2024 championship and a strong conclusion to my time in papaya.”

Rossi is currently fifth in the IndyCar standings; Lundgaard is 11th.

The change will be the fifth for McLaren since two-time IndyCar champion Alex Palou late last season breached his contract with the team and decided to remain at Chip Ganassi Racing. McLaren is suing Palou for more than $30 million.

In the meantime, Palou was going to replace Felix Rosenqvist, who left anyway and joined Meyer Shank Racing, where he is ninth in the standings and having a career resurgence.

McLaren then hired David Malukas for its empty seat, but Malukas broke his hand before the season opened and the team had to use a combination of former IndyCar driver Callum Ilott and F2 champion Theo Pourchaire as replacemements. When Malukas missed his fourth consecutive race, it triggered a clause in his contract that allowed McLaren to fire him.

The team then named Pourchaire its driver for the remaining of the season. But McLaren last month said 19-year-old Nolan Siegel will actually drive the No. 6 car on a multi-year contract and was replacing Pourchaire.

The Siegel hiring sparked criticism of McLaren CEO Zak Brown’s cycling through drivers as Arrow McLaren tries to catch Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing as the top teams in IndyCar. McLaren has ample team resources and depth, but its only win this season was handed to Pato O’Ward when he finished second to Josef Newgarden in the season opener and Newgarden was later disqualified.

McLaren’s lineup next year will be O’Ward, Siegel and Lundgaard.

“I think Pato, Nolan and I will work well together,” Lundgaard said in a statement given to AP. “I’m focused 100% on finishing this season strong with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. We have a lot of the season left, but this is a huge weight off my shoulders that will hopefully let me compete at my best the next nine races.”

Ward, the team principal, took exception to the backlash the team has received for its driver carousel, noting the situations with Palou and Malukas.

“The decisions that have been made, we were put into a difficult situation. Then with the uncertainty of Malukas’ injury, we had to let him go,” Ward told AP. “The ironic thing is people will take this and make us look bad. We have over 100 people who work for us, and the decision with David, although it was not a nice one to make, when you look at it pragmatically, and you have a driver for 2025 (Siegel) who is ready to get a hard start, and that’s logical.

“On Theo, we are still honoring his contract 100%. It’s all aboveboard. On Alex, we didn’t come to terms on a new deal. I think there’s a perception we’re tearing up contracts and it’s just not true. But, you’re not always going to make everyone happy.”

He added that Lundgaard’s youth and early success made him an obvious asset to chase.

“Christian has had proven success in his few seasons racing in the series, and he checks the boxes for what we’re looking for in speed and potential alongside Pato and Nolan,” Ward said. “The three make up the youngest trio on the grid, and we know that direction has been paying off for our F1 counterparts.”

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AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing



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