Christian Lundgaard to replace Alex Rossi at Arrow McLaren in 2025

It wasn’t long ago Pato O’Ward was seen as Arrow McLaren’s young, up-and-coming IndyCar driver talent. In a matter of just a couple weeks, the 25-year-old Mexican driver has been positioned as the three-car team’s seasoned veteran, with Arrow McLaren officials making yet another surprise driver signing.

Zak Brown, Gavin Ward, Tony Kanaan and company have signed Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Christian Lundgaard to a multi-year deal, the team announced Tuesday, signaling the end to Alexander Rossi’s tenure with the team at the end of this season after just two years.

‘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 (Siegel),’ Arrow McLaren team principal Gavin Ward said in a release Tuesday regarding the team’s latest signing. ‘The three make up the youngest trio (in IndyCar), and we know that direction has been paying off for our F1 counterparts with Lando (Norris) and Oscar (Piastri).

‘We’re looking toward our long-term goal of sustained high performance, and I believe with these three drivers and the ongoing support of Arrow and all our amazing partners, we’re taking a good step in that direction for 2025.”

In recent months, Rossi and his father, Pieter, who negotiates on his behalf, have been in talks regarding an extension, with both sides noting two weeks ago they were far down the road on a potential contract that would give both sides much-needed stability. In the end, though, Rossi and Arrow McLaren couldn’t come to terms on the length of the deal — leading them to agree to look elsewhere for the future. For Arrow McLaren, who less than a month ago had not spoken with Lundgaard according to a source close the negotiations, the 22-year-old one-time IndyCar race-winner was the obvious choice.

In the midst of his third full-time season with RLL, Lundgaard sits 11th in points with a single podium (IMS road course) and just two top-10s so far in 2024. Having accrued three total podiums in his IndyCar career, including a single win at Toronto in 2023, he finished 8th in the championship a year ago — 15 points ahead of Rossi in 9th.

“I’m excited to have my plans set for 2025 and beyond, and I’m thrilled it’s with Arrow McLaren,’ Lundgaard said in a release Tuesday. ‘I have a lot of respect for Zak, Gavin, Tony and the team, and I think Pato, Nolan and I will work well together.

‘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.”

RLL co-owner Bobby Rahal has long claimed Lundgaard didn’t need to leave the team that gave him his IndyCar debut in 2021, then signed him to a one-year deal for 2022 and months into the season renegotiated a new multi-year deal, believing that his driver, who beat all of Andretti Global’s drivers a year ago, along with two of Arrow McLaren’s, was in a position where he could grow into a title contender as RLL upped its game.

Lundgaard, too, at the beginning of the year, said he was eager to see this project through with RLL, and that staying was his priority, though he noted in March he was allowed to speak with outside teams about a deal for 2025 and beyond as he entered a contract year. Rahal and longtime partner Mike Lanigan hinting in May that talks between the two sides were icy pointed to the potential of a split at the end of the year, though until Rossi’s talks with Arrow McLaren brass reached a standstill, it was unclear where Lundgaard could land.

‘Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing is looking forward to closing out our working relationship with Christian Lundgaard as successfully as possible and thank him for his past efforts on behalf of the team,’ the team said in a brief statement Tuesday. ‘We are proud to have brought him into (IndyCar) and wish him well in the future.’

For Rossi, the future is somewhat unclear, though his father urged that the camp was well down the road on talks for the 2016 Indy 500-winner’s future in the series starting in 2025. After a somewhat bumpy introductory year with Arrow McLaren, just his second home in the series after seven-year tenure with Andretti Global that included eight wins, 28 podiums and two serious title fights, Rossi seemed to have been rounding into form in recent weeks.

Outside a mechanical failure at Road America that left him 18th instead of a likely top-5 finish, as well as a 25th-place result at Barber derailed by a wheel not properly attached during a stop, Rossi has delivered top-10s in 2024. Excluding those two results outside of his control, Rossi holds a 4-2 edge on O’Ward, with O’Ward’s better finishes coming at the 500 (2nd place) and St. Pete (win). Including the full season’s worth of results in 2024 at what is essentially the halfway point, Rossi (7th) sits just 10 points back of O’Ward (6th) and has arguably given Arrow McLaren a level of consistency and pace only matched by the series three true title contenders this year: Alex Palou, Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“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,’ Rossi said Tuesday in a release. ‘The No. 7 crew is fantastic, and I’ve built a lot of long-lasting friendships with the team.

‘Zak, Gavin, Tony and I had many conversations over the last several months on my future with the team. We were not able to come to terms on a new deal, so 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.”

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