The 2021 season for then Arrow McLaren SP showed the ups and downs one team could have throughout a sixteen race season. On one end, Pato O’Ward burst onto the scene and competed for the championship, winning his first two career races and ultimately finishing third in the standings. As great of a season as the young Mexican driver had, it was a challenging season to say the least for his teammate Felix Rosenqvist. As O’Ward contended week in and week out for wins, Rosenqvist in his first year with the team could barely battle for top 10s. In fact, Rosenqvist only finished inside the top 10 twice in 2021, finishing the year with an average of a 16th place finish. Taylor Kiel is one of the best engineers in the paddock and the key to success in 2022 will be finding the formula for both cars to run up front, which we know the team is capable of.
Announced at Nashville in 2021, McLaren would acquire 75% ownership of Arrow McLaren SP starting in 2022. The team has a board of directors consisting of Ric Peterson, Sam Schmidt, CEO Zak Brown among others. With great sponsorship backing from Arrow, Lucas Oil, Vuse and Mission, McLaren has what it takes to continue to challenge for championships over the next several years. The team has great comradery, the next step is getting both of it’s full time entries competing for championships.
What a season it was for the now 22 year old. A third place in the championship and wins at Texas and Detroit. A great run in the Indy 500 saw him finish a career high 4th. He’s shown that he is one of the best young talents in the sport. Despite flirting with Formula 1, I think O’Ward’s future is in IndyCar for years to come.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: More than anything, don’t take a step back and continue the success you laid the foundation on for in 2021. The only blemish on last season was the performance on street courses. St. Pete, Nashville and Long Beach saw O’Ward finish outside the top 10 with a best finish of 12th at Nashville.
PROJECTION: O’Ward will be a championship contender in 2022. If he can have results on street circuits, O’Ward will be fighting for the championship at Laguna Seca at the end of the season. He will again be a race winner in 2022.
To say 2021 was a forgettable season for Rosenqvist would be an understatement. In his first year with the team, the Swede only qualified inside the top 10 four times, and finished outside the top 12 in all but two races. Felix missed two races after suffering injuries in a massive crash during race one in Detroit. A throttle stuck on the #7 Arrow McLaren Chevy, sending his car violently into the tire barriers. He would miss the next day's race at Belle Isle and the following at Road America. He would bounce back to score his only two top tens of the season, finishing 21st in points.
ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT: Everywhere. When your teammate is running for a championship, you have to step your game up too. There will be plenty of pressure on Felix to perform in 2022. McLaren isn’t a team that is going to give you a long leash to show results. He has been dismal on ovals throughout his IndyCar career. With an average finish of 22nd at the Indianapolis 500 and a career average finish of 15th on ovals, Felix has to get results at ovals in 2022.
PROJECTION: It’s a make or break season for Rosenqvist. With the success the #5 car team had in 2021, the #7 will rise to the challenge. I can’t imagine Rosenqvist doesn’t break out of it. Hopefully for Felix, last year was just a fluke and nothing more than growing pains running for a new team. If he can figure out the ovals and get back to running well on road and street courses like he did in 2020, there should be no reason for Felix not to have a few podiums by the end of 2022.
Juan Pablo Montoya was announced as the third driver entered in the 2022 Indy 500. The two time winner of the Indianapolis 500 will look to compete in his second straight Indy 500 for the team. With backing from Lucas Oil and Mission Foods, the forty six year old will run both the Indy Grand Prix and the Indianapolis 500. Montoya qualified 24th for last year's Indy 500 and raced his way to a 9th place finish.
It is possible we see a third entry for other races on the schedule as well. Arrow has interest in running a third car full time in 2023 and could use the end of the season to try out a few different options, similar to what Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing did with the #45 car at the end of 2021. Nico Hulkenberg tested for the team at Barber Motorsports Park back in the fall of 2021.The main goal for the team in 2022 is to continue the success of Pato O’Ward while closing the gap with Felix Rosenqvist, getting him back to contending for race wins and podiums.
CHAMPIONSHIP PROJECTION ODDS
PATO O’WARD +500
FELIX ROSENQVIST +1800
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