Rossi wants to fight Herta for 2022 IndyCar title
Andretti Autosport-Hondas has been strong on street courses for the past four seasons, and Rossi believes his team quarterback, the # 27 NAPA / AutoNation entry, made a breakthrough on natural courses in the last one. third of this season.
But he says the team still lack vital speed on the non-Indianapolis ovals, which next year will include Texas Motor Speedway, Iowa Speedway (x 2) and the World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.
He told Motorsport.com: “In August, on our # 27 car, we finally set a road layout which had been our biggest weakness from the start. We were really hit and miss – days we were untouchable and days we were struggling to get out of our Q1 groups. We therefore went from road course to road course, changing everything for the individual circuit.
“Then we went to Laguna Seca for a test, using a configuration known to us. We didn’t expect it to work and it worked. Then we went to Portland and it worked for us again, and we qualified on the front row and finished second.
“And then we went to Laguna for the race and it worked again. It was a big boost for us before the offseason.
“I think we’re still really struggling on the short ovals, our main focus this offseason, and using the limited testing we have to improve there. We can’t even contemplate the championship if we’re nowhere on the ovals. “
As Rossi dominated and ended his motorsport year with wins – the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona in Wayne Taylor Racing’s Acura and the Baja 1000 in the Honda Ridgeline – his full-time role in IndyCar was a disappointment, ending 10e in the final standings, one year after finishing ninth. In contrast, his 2018 and 19 seasons saw him second and third respectively.
Evaluating his season, Rossi commented: “The pace was generally good, especially in the second half of the year. Even in the first half, there were a lot of good elements, some great races that we had.
“I made too many mistakes in the race – I think of Gateway and Laguna Seca… it’s strange. But these two stand out as big dots [hauls] it got away – we were definitely going to be third in St. Louis and could have quite easily finished on the podium in Laguna. We were pretty much ranked last for both, so those two really hurt our final position in the standings.
“Long Beach was a missed opportunity – quite a few things broke in the race which made the race difficult – and it was another weekend our cars were so good, it was a bit like Nashville [where he was taken out]. It’s heartbreaking when you just don’t get anything, when none of the weekends go smoothly.
However, Rossi believes similar point rankings mask the fact that Andretti Autosport has made progress overall from last year to this one and can make similar progress in the coming season.
“Everyone was functioning better, doing a better job,” he said, “so we just have to move on and take the lead in 2022.
“For me, nothing changes much from a personal point of view: Jeremy Milless remains my race engineer, Rob Edwards will always be my strategist and our relationship is stronger than ever. We’re all disappointed with each other with how 2021 has gone, you can’t blame anyone – I made mistakes, the team made mistakes, we missed some settings.
“But it’s not like one person is constantly letting the team down, there’s no weak link.
“For my part, I think it’s almost a state of mind that I have to change. I started this year with a lot of expectations on everyone to bounce back from 2020, and that’s what happened, in terms of performance and not results. The season started well in terms of qualifying and speed, then the problems in Texas really hurt us and it snowballed.
“May started off well, but we were almost immediately out of the 500, which puts everyone on the map. We were fighting in Detroit and had the potential to win the race and… we couldn’t do it.
“The thing is, you can’t start the year with so many things wrong because it sucks everyone’s air and it just gets tough. You start to try almost too hard.
“So now we just move on with a new slate and try again. “
Colton Herta Comparisons
No one noticed that for the second year in a row, Herta was the sole race winner for Andretti Autosport’s IndyCar team, this time capturing three triumphs. On how to prevent his incredibly fast young teammate from becoming the de facto A team leader among AA pilots, Rossi was blunt in his assessment.
“I think Colton and I have different approaches to racing. He’s rather passive, shows up on the track and gets the job done, ”he commented. “I’m a little more involved week to week, (a) because of my location and (b) because that’s exactly the kind of person I am.
“But there’s no question he did a fantastic job, and in 2021 he just beat me, right away. I think there have been events where we were better but we haven’t really capitalized on that. If I look at Nashville, he did better than us, and if I look at Laguna, he got the better of us. Everywhere else, I think we were pretty close, but his worst days were way better than my worst days – that was the big separation.
“Obviously he won three times and we didn’t win any, but you look at Detroit and Nashville – where he and I were on different strategies – I was on the same as Marcus. [Ericsson, eventual winner] and I didn’t get very far with that one.
“In Long Beach, he and I were the class of the peloton for most of the weekend and expected to be in the front row and fight during the race. We could see the cars were good enough to really win anywhere, but my car broke.
“So in your opinion it really makes me work hard, there’s a lot of stuff I’m doing to make sure I’m as prepared as possible to go to St. Pete in February. And I hope we can get a situation where he and I have a little better luck during the season, and we can fight for the championship.
“Andretti Autosport on a lot of tracks has the cars to beat, and he has the engineering prowess to be in the conversation at the end of the year, so it’s unfortunate that neither of us have been around since 2019.
“This has to change. One of us – hopefully both – has to be in the championship fight in the last race in 2022. If you look at Colton winning three races – the same as Alex Palou [champion] – but only finishing fifth in the championship… It shows that we all have to minimize these bad days. They just can’t happen if you want to beat the other teams. Being fast alone is not enough.
For Rossi’s thoughts on the Baja 1000, and other thoughts on his season with Andretti Autosport and IndyCar in general, check out This week with Will Buxton, Ep. 15. Rossi’s interview begins at 22m44sec.