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McLaren Just Can't Stop Firing IndyCar Drivers, It Loves It Actually

Image: Arrow McLaren Racing
Image: Arrow McLaren Racing

The Arrow McLaren IndyCar team will replace Alexander Rossi with Danish driver Christian Lundgaard at the end of the 2024 season, ending the 2016 Indy 500 winner’s two-year tenure in Papaya orange colors. The move is an interesting one, as Rossi clearly still has the drive and talent (though maybe not the luck) needed to succeed—he qualified and finished fourth at the Indy 500 this year, and sits seventh on points following a podium at the most recent Laguna Seca round. Lundgaard, however, shows a lot of promise as he’s been seriously outdriving his Rahal Letterman-entered car.

Lundgaard, to his credit, was the favorite among the series’ 2025 pack of free agents, having grabbed one IndyCar victory, a trio of podiums, and two pole positions. After three seasons with Rahal Letterman, it’s clear he was the team’s highest performing driver, handily outscoring defacto team leader Graham Rahal in 2023 and so far this year.

Rossi, meanwhile, has struggled in his time with McLaren. The 32-year-old Californian—and five-time F1 grand prix participant—hasn’t found a race win since July of 2022, scoring no better than third in his time with McLaren. Meanwhile teammate Pato O’Ward has grabbed a win and eight further podiums, including narrowly losing the Indy 500 in May, vastly overshadowing Rossi.

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McLaren’s driver lineup troubles began with hiring defending champion driver Alex Palou at the close of the 2022 season, which brought with it legal action from Chip Ganassi Racing, where Palou continues to race today. McLaren handed Palou a $30M lawsuit for alleged breach of contract. Palou was intended to replace Felix Rosenqvist, who was pushed out anyway at the close of 2023. Rosenqvist’s vacated number six car has since been filled by David Malukas (who never raced for the team as he was fired following a cycling injury), Callum Illott for three rounds, Theo Pourchaire for five rounds, and hopefully has finally settled with rookie Nolan Siegel in the seat.

McLaren is struggling in 2024, sitting a clear distance behind IndyCar top teams Penske and Ganassi.

Rossi had this to say of his departure.

“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. 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.”

There aren’t a ton of open seats in compelling teams where Rossi could land. Maybe this will see a driver swap and he’ll occupy Lundgaard’s vacated RLL seat. Personally, I’d like to see Rossi move out of IndyCar into a more permanent sports car role. He does have a 2021 Daytona 24 victory to his name, after all. With Acura moving its IMSA program back to Meyer Shank Racing, I would hope that he could be pushed into one of the team’s leadership sports car roles, with an opportunity to race with them at the Indy 500, where he remains quite successful. That could be the best option for him, if Mike Shank is interested in signing that contract.

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