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IndyCar Laguna Seca

IndyCar 2023 season review: Arrow McLaren

The combination of Joey Barnes and Nick Degroot provide their respective thoughts in a team-by-team breakdown of the 2023 season in the IndyCar Series. This time, the duo look at Arrow McLaren.

Patricio O'Ward, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, Felix Rosenqvist, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet, Alexander Rossi, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

#5 – Pato O’Ward, 4th in the championship standings (484 points) – 17 races

  • 0 wins, 7 podiums, 9 top fives, 14 top 10s, 0 poles, 13 Fast Six Appearances
  • Best Finish: 2nd (St. Petersburg, Texas, IMS Road Course – Race 1, Gateway)
  • Best Start: 2nd (Road America, Nashville)

#7 – Alexander Rossi, 9th in the championship standings (375 points) – 17 races

  • 0 wins, 1 podium, 6 top fives, 11 top 10s, 0 poles, 3 Fast Six Appearances
  • Best Finish: 3rd (IMS Road Course – Race 1)
  • Best Start: 3rd (Texas, IMS Road Course – Race 2)

#6 – Felix Rosenqvist, 12th in the championship standings (324 points) – 17 races

  • 0 wins, 2 podiums, 4 top fives, 8 top 10s, 2 poles, 6 Fast Six Appearances
  • Best Finish: 2nd (Portland)
  • Best Start: 1st (Texas, Laguna Seca)

#66 – Tony Kanaan, 32nd in championship standings (18 points) – 1 race

  • 0 wins, 0 podiums, 0 top fives, 0 top 10s, 0 poles, 0 Fast Six Appearances
  • Best Finish: 16th (Indianapolis 500)
  • Best Start: 9th (Indianapolis 500)

Joey Barnes: I would image there is a blend of frustration and encouragement about 2023 for Arrow McLaren. There was no trip to Victory Lane, but there were numerous near misses that give a sense the organisation is right on the cusp of a major breakout.

Consider that Pato O’Ward qualified among the top six spots in 13 of 17 rounds and captured seven podiums. There was the weird mechanical glitch at St. Petersburg that showed up in the final laps that gave one away to start the year, which really set the tone. Another win went by the wayside in the finale at Laguna Seca, too. The Mexican was furiously quick in the Indianapolis 500 before a late attempted pass on Marcus Ericsson for the runner-up spot with eight laps to go ended in the Turn 3 wall. By the measure of consistency, it was O’Ward’s best season yet and enduring those experiences should only help close the gap moving forward.

Alexander Rossi’s first year with the team ended with a respectable 11 top 10s, only three less than O’Ward. Often the California native was on the charge, but usually because of qualifying performances that were less desired as he only started in the top six on three occasions. If that number doubles – or more – in 2024, it’ll be a significant step closer to being the championship contender everyone became familiar with.

It has been stunning to see the misfortune that struck Felix Rosenqvist during his time with Arrow McLaren, and 2023 was a continuation of that. Another pole at Texas ended with another issue for a second consecutive year. He was in the thick of the battle to win the Indianapolis 500 before getting caught out – and crashing – in the wake of eventual winner Josef Newgarden. The start at Mid-Ohio saw fellow Swede Marcus Ericsson collide and climb over his car, leaving tyre marks on the aeroscreen of his No. 6 Chevrolet.

The overall results never matched the promise of pace on a regular basis, but the late season runner-up at Portland and pole in the season finale put a happy ending to their chapter together. Rosenqvist will drive for Meyer Shank Racing in 2024, with David Malukas brought in as his replacement at Arrow McLaren.

The biggest reason I take a positive view with a win-less 2023 for Arrow McLaren is the fact that it was the organisation’s first year with Gavin Ward at the helm as team principal, while also expanding to three full-time entries and bolstering the staff by 40%. If these results are the foundation, that is one hell of a high floor.

Alexander Rossi, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Photo by: Gavin Baker / Motorsport Images

Alexander Rossi, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Nick Degroot: Zero wins in 2023 for McLaren. Pato O'Ward scored more podiums than any driver besides the champion, leading 187 laps, and ending the year fourth in the points standings. And yet, it just never came together for him on race day.

Alexander Rossi and Felix Rosenqvist found the podium at some point during the year, but underperformed for the most part. All three of these drivers are proven race winners, so what is McLaren missing? They have the resources and the talent, both behind the wheel and on the pitwall.

Yet, it seemed like they were always getting bested by others on strategy, or just lacked race-winning pace. Indy was a massive missed opportunity, as O'Ward was again in a strong position to win the 500 but ended up crashing out late.

Despite the winless year, I wouldn't call 2023 a failure for McLaren. They are so close to becoming a true threat to titans like Ganassi and Penske, and have now strengthened their driver line-up with the addition of David Malukas for 2024. If they can just clean things up a bit, they will be a constant threat for wins, and the title as well.

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