Despite being crowned as IndyCar’s Rookie of the Year at the final round, the move to the series saw massive changes for Scott McLaughlin.
Going from being the reigning three-time series champion in Supercars, to a rookie unfamiliar with the open-wheel cars as well as many of the tracks, was a significant adjustment for McLaughlin.
Fellow rookie and former Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean finished the season just 33 points behind, despite running three fewer races than the Kiwi.
McLaughlin recently spoke to AutoWeek about his maiden season in the series.
“Once I sort of brought back my goals and brought back what I was actually like, you know, I’m a rookie and realizing that I’m not a four-year veteran in the series and started enjoying it more, I started to be more relaxed about a few things and also just understanding and getting a lot faster,” McLaughlin said.
The change of mindset started to help not only his consistency but also his results and qualifying.
“I don’t really know what to expect but I know my race pace has been as strong as these guys and know we can be thereabouts come qualifying, then we’ll be okay.
“The sky’s the limit for me. I really think ovals I can really hit it hard because I feel really good and comfortable and I have a really good package there. But road courses, if I get to Q2 [second round of qualifying] more often than not most weekends, which is bloody hard to do in the series now, then yeah, the sky’s the limit for me.”
Though he may not have always qualified where he would have liked the Kiwi has been consistent, finishing the race within four places of his qualifying spot in 13 of the 14 races.
The move from a sedan category like Supercars championship to the open-wheel cars in the IndyCar series is a significant one, with little in common between the two series.
Mclaughlin initially struggled to come to terms with the engineering differences between the two categories, and what the car needed to drive the way he wanted it to.
“There’s really nothing that’s actually similar. The way the cars feel is completely different. Sometimes now I’ve got to think of mechanical grip and aero grip, whereas in Supercars, it was mainly just mechanical grip. So that’s been a hard thing for me because sometimes I think I need more mechanical, but it’s actually aero.
“That’s been the hardest thing, going to different tracks, learning a different car and having a lot of bad habits which I’ve had to iron out.
“But the most important thing for me right now is I’d love to contest for championships eventually. I know it might not happen straight away and whatever, but I believe in my talent and I believe in my work ethic. And if we put those together, I feel like it’s a good ingredient to get to the top and I’ll do my very best.”
McLaughlin will be back in IndyCar for his second season with Team Penske when the 2022 season kicks off at St Petersberg, February 25.
Main Image: Chris Jones