Alexander Rossi Makes His IndyCar Series Debut for Andretti AutoSport

Alexander Rossi made a “disappointing” (his words, not mine) return to IndyCar this past weekend. Although Rossi finished Friday’s afternoon practice session in 13th place, he came from behind the back. During qualifying he was 21st, which is an impressive feat for anyone that so far behind the top 10.

Rossi told Motorsport.com: “It was very disappointing. I don’t really know how to quantify [it] yet. We need to sit down and discuss where different cars may have gone in different directions, setup-wise. We’re still working on the balance to suit me,” Rossi admitted. “Some runs are better than others. The problem is that as the track changed and evolved we didn’t keep on top of it.”

While Rossi may be unhappy with his performance during this weekend’s race, it worth noting that this is the first official race Rossi and Co. are jumping into after his five race stint during the 2015 Formula One Championship season. He was 18th fastest in the first St Petersburg practice session, then 13th on Friday afternoon with a best time of 1m01.5198s, following a trip up an escape road. Rossi's more experienced teammates Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay were 11th and 12th. It also speaks a lot to his talent and ability.

Confidence in Race Pace

Rossi said he believed that once everyone stepped back from the ultimate one-lap pace required by qualifying, the #98 car would be able to make progress on race day.

“We should be a lot closer,” he said. “Our single-lap performance has been missing just because there is a little bit of a lack of comfort in the car still and general understanding of how to pull the ultimate lap out of it."

Currently they are out of position on the grid but they’ll be looking to change that soon, I’m sure. All of the racecars are pretty evenly matched and are about the same in terms of race set-up according to the testing that was done. The warm-up will give them a chance to establish what will be the best way to move the team forward.

Mo’ Grip, Mo’ Problems

Rossi had no issues adapting to the extra grip provided by the softer red-walled tires, which he had not experienced until qualifying and according to him, did not affect the balance of the car.

Andretti Autosport is working on nailing down the correct balance for Rossi’s car. “There is potential there, obviously, because Ryan Hunter-Reay made it to the Firestone Fast Six, but the other three of us seemed to be struggling a bit.”

The positive is that they’ve established what doesn’t work and it gives them a direction to follow. Regardless, Rossi and his fellow opponents seem to be fairly evenly matched. “In driving style, Ryan and I are pretty close. In fact, I don’t think any of us are radically different from each other, so we don’t have to do too much digging to find the way forward.”

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