Rossi seeks to reassert himself at Andretti
Of the various items on Alexander Rossi’s to-do list for next season, one of the most important tasks is to solve the complex challenge that young teammate Colton Herta presented to Andretti Autosport.
As a rookie in 2018 with the Andretti-affiliated Harding Steinbrenner Racing team, Herta took two wins – like Rossi – and notched three poles compared to the two won by the 2016 Indy 500 winner. Rossi finished the race. season at the top of the standings, taking third place against Herta’s seventh, but this was the last time Rossi had a top spot in Andretti’s roster.
Herta added another win and pole in 2020 after joining the great Andretti team and finishing third in the championship as Rossi faced an extraordinary amount of woes and missed opportunities that left him winless in ninth square. Any hope of a Rossi turnaround in 2021 was quickly dashed, with adversity remaining a regular visitor on race day. Herta, meanwhile, has started in the top six on 12 occasions and added three more poles and wins to his tally on his way to fifth in the championship.
Rossi, who wondered what he had done to deserve another disheartening season, endured the year without a win and placed 10th.
Having seen Rossi destroy the pitch on several occasions since joining the series in 2016, there is no doubt that he is able to step back on the podium and fight against Herta. Whether he’s destined to bring Herta back to second in Andretti’s Depths standings – while also taking on new team-mate Romain Grosjean – will be a fascinating topic to follow when the new season kicks off in February.
From Rossi’s perspective, consistently catching and beating Herta will take more hard work on the engineering side to make the No.27 Honda even better. The quest begins with road races, which make up almost half of the IndyCar calendar.
âThere is no mystery in motorsport,â says Rossi. âI think he’s exceptionally talented. He and (race engineer) Nathan (O’Rourke) have found a great pace and they are not looking for anything. So they can introduce themselves, they have their configuration and they run it. And it is fast. Untilâ¦ really late August, when we had a Laguna Seca test, I always had to go back to Colton’s setup to some extent, and frankly I can’t drive it.
âBut coming back to the 1000ft view, our street class package is awesome. Me and Colton can drive the same race car on street courses. This is not a problem. We are most of the time within half a degree of the front fender; I feel like we’re the two fastest cars on the track, period. So it’s street classes. Oval, aside from the (Indy) 500, we’re both looking for something. I think St. Louis has been a big step forward for us this year. It surprised us all to have the pace there, both of us, but I still think the ovals are kind of a question mark for the organization. The big difference is the road courses.
Midway through 2021, Rossi and racing engineer Jeremy Milles were making solid gains as fifth in Mid-Ohio, fourth in Indy’s Grand Prix and second in Portland – his best result of the year – have gave entry # 27 the boost it needed. In most cases, however, Herta was slightly ahead in qualifying, race or overall speed.
âFor me I had to bring a completely different car to all of these tracks and with limited training I just couldn’t put it in the window and then I ended up going back to his car which was quick and then realizing that I was still two and a half to three tenths behind him, âsaid Rossi.
âSo it wasn’t until August that we found a road racing car; we took this car to Portland and we qualified number one. Took this road racing car to Laguna, qualifying first row. And things were starting to move in a really positive direction, but in the end we didn’t get any results.
Put simply, getting results is all Rossi is aiming for when he enters his seventh IndyCar season. He enters 2022 in the final year of his contract with Andretti Autosport, must give all teams with open seats for 2023 a reason to make lucrative offers and has a reference to Herta to deal with if he is to win his first championship. .
Rossi believes that if he and Milles can keep their rediscovered road course mojo, the good times will quickly return.
âThere is always a reason in the race,â he repeated. âThe big problem for us on the 27-car side was that we didn’t have a road racing car that we were comfortable with. And it is now behind us. So coming into St. Pete we know this car will be quick and then hopefully get into the early circuits. It all translates here in a few months.