McLaren: Malukas “popped out for us” when deciding on Rosenqvist’s replacement in IndyCar squad

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With Alex Palou making a sensational U-turn on his deal with Arrow McLaren that was due to start next year, the team has chosen David Malukas to take the seat that Felix Rosenqvist has held for three seasons.

The 21-year-old has impressed in relatively uncompetitive machinery at Dale Coyne Racing, securing two podiums at Gateway in consecutive seasons, and Malukas has also finished P4 at Texas and 6th at Mid-Ohio in his second IndyCar campaign this year.

Speaking to Pit Debrief and other media outlets on Friday about the decision to sign Malukas for 2024 and beyond, Arrow McLaren’s Racing Director Gavin Ward explained that Malukas stood out when analysing potential drivers for next year,

“We’re really excited. We started with the analytics on this decision and David popped out for us as that’s one of the best talents in INDYCAR, up-and-coming side here.

“You go from there. It’s not all about numbers. Really we’re trying to build something here. As David mentioned, the culture, the way we work as a team and the way we enjoy going racing is a big part of it.

“We got the ambition to make that next step, and I’m very excited. I think David is going to be a big part of that.”

Expanding on the analysis McLaren undertook before offering Malukas a multi-year deal, several factors came into play says Ward.

In fact, the thrilling title fight he had with Kyle Kirkwood in Indy Lights (now Indy NXT) in 2021 was mentioned as well. Kirkwood came out on top by 13 points, and he has shown his ability in IndyCar with two superb wins for Andretti Autosport this year.

“So I think we saw right away, even without kind of trying to normalise for team performance, David is right away one of the strongest oval racers already in the series. Looking at relative performance, trying to normalize for teams, that showed very positively over the last two years.

“Then I think a little bit of just looking at the couple years in INDYCAR. That’s a good level of experience. The age. The success in NXT. All the people he raced against. It all points to positive things.

“I think beyond that, you go and you meet somebody, you start to understand their work ethic, how they might fit in with the team, personality, all that sort of stuff. It’s not all about that. I think there’s still a human touch here.”

Zak Brown was also asked why McLaren decided on Malukas. Interestingly, McLaren’s CEO admitted he spoke to McLaren’s Formula One star Oscar Piastri about racing Malukas back in the Formula 4 UAE Championship in 2016-17. The Chicago-born driver outscored the Australian 97-94 after they both ran in three of the five rounds.

“I think when you’re looking at drivers, you’re looking at both them individually and how you think they’ll fit in with your team and other drivers. As Gavin said, David’s on-track talents are very clear, his track record. Also spoke with Oscar Piastri, who raced with David.

“When we look at our driver lineup with Pato O’Ward and Alexander Rossi, it’s a fierce lineup of experience and youthfulness. I’m excited to go racing next year with David, Alex and Pato.”

Photo credit: Arrow McLaren