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

Arrow McLaren Racing is making another change to its driver line-up and will replace former Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi with Kristian Lundgaard next season.

The 22-year-old Danish driver will leave Rahal Letterman Lanigan, the team that took him off the Formula 1 ladder and into 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 and scored three podiums and two poles in 43 career starts and was the top free agent in IndyCar this year.

Rossi, who won the Indy 500 in 2016 as a rookie with Andretti Global, joined Arrow McLaren last year. He claimed only his second podium since joining the team earlier this season at Laguna Seca, and at the time many thought it had saved the former Formula 1 driver’s job.

Ultimately, team manager Gavin Ward and Rossi’s father, Peter, told The Associated Press that the two sides could not agree on terms.

“We’ve been talking for months, but we just couldn’t come to an agreement on a lot of things, and that’s okay,” Peter Rossi told The Associated Press.

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

“The No. 7 crew is fantastic and I have built many long-lasting friendships with the team,” Rossi added, noting that he has had multiple conversations with the team leaders over the past few months. “The mutual decision to part ways is amicable. I am very confident in the discussions currently underway in the pitlane to find a new place. I will follow up on any good news soon, while at the same time focusing on finishing in the top five in the 2024 championship and a strong conclusion to my time at Papaya.”

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

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

Meanwhile, Palou was set to replace Felix Rosenqvist, who left anyway and joined Meyer-Schanck Racing, where he is ninth in the standings and experiencing a renaissance in his career.

McLaren then hired David Maloukas to replace him, but Maloukas broke his hand before the start of the season and the team had to use a combination of former IndyCar driver Callum Ilott and Formula 2 champion Theo Bourchier as replacements. When Maloukas missed his fourth race in a row, it triggered a clause in his contract that allowed McLaren to sack him.

The team then announced that Bourchier would be their driver for the rest of the season. But McLaren said last month 19-year-old Nolan Siegel will drive the No. 6 car on a multi-year contract, replacing Borchier.

Siegel’s appointment has drawn criticism from McLaren CEO Zak Brown for inconsistent driver performances as Arrow McLaren attempts to catch Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing as the top two teams in IndyCar. McLaren has ample team resources and depth, but its only win this season was by Pato O’Ward when he finished second to Josef Newgarden in the season opener and Newgarden was subsequently disqualified.

Next year’s McLaren line-up will include O’Ward, Siegel and Lundgaard.

“I think Pato, Nolan and I will work well together,” Lundgaard said in a statement to The Associated Press. “I am 100 percent focused on finishing this season strong with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. We have a long season left, but this is a huge weight off my shoulders and I hope to be able to compete at my best in the next nine races.”

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Team principal Ward took issue with criticism of the team’s driver dizziness, pointing to the situations with Palou and Malukas.

“The decisions that were made put us in a tough spot,” Ward told The Associated Press. “Then with the uncertainty over Malukas’ injury, we had to let him go. The ironic thing is that people are going to take that and make us look bad. We have over 100 people working with us, and the decision with David, while it wasn’t a nice one, when you look at it from a business perspective, and you have a driver for 2025 (Siegel) who is ready for a tough start, it makes sense.”

“With Theo, we still respect his contract 100 per cent. Everything is clear and straightforward. With Alex, we have not reached an agreement on a new deal. I think there is a perception that we are cancelling contracts and that is not true. But you cannot always please everyone.”

He added that Lundgaard’s youth and early success made it clear he was worth pursuing.

“Christian has had proven success in his few seasons racing in this series and he fits our requirements in terms of speed and capability alongside Pato and Nolan,” said Ward. “The three of them form the youngest trio on the grid and we know that this trend has paid off for our Formula 1 counterparts.”

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AP Car Racing: https://apnews.com/hub/Motor Racing

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