Road America marked three years since Alexander Rossi last stood in IndyCar‘s victory lane, a shocking streak which has been close to coming to an end at the last two races.
A coronavirus pandemic has come, and almost gone, during Rossi‘s winless period which nobody could have seen coming when he was a title protagonist in 2018 and 2019.
His poor run of results have led him to leave Andretti Autosport for Arrow McLaren SP for the 2023 season, but where has it all gone wrong for Rossi?
A fading star
Having fulfilled a dream by racing in Formula 1 for Manor in 2015, Rossi returned to the United States to race in IndyCar.
He made his debut with a bang by winning the Indy 500 in his rookie campaign with a plucky fuel-saving drive.
Rossi’s rise up the IndyCar ranks was impressive as he was in title contention at each of the 2018 and 2019 finale, showing great speed and racecraft in both seasons.
However, the upward curve came to an abrupt halt as Rossi went winless for the first time in a season in 2020, although he did take four podiums in a row at the end of the year.
“I just think we sucked globally,” Rossi told the press about his frustrating season. “There wasn’t anything we were doing right, whether it was qualifying performance, whether it was race performance, pit stops, my driving. None of it was good.
“I think Indianapolis [the Indy 500] was quite an eye opener for everyone in terms of how fast all the Andretti Autosport cars were, and to come away with really nothing was not good. It wasn’t a good Monday [after the race].”
Impact of Colton Herta?
One reason for Rossi‘s downfall could be the presence of young hot shot Colton Herta, who joined Andretti Autosport in 2020.
Herta is seen as the big young superstar of IndyCar, with one eye on a move to F1. The often blunt Rossi hasn’t exactly been oozing confidence since Herta‘s arrival, perhaps a coincidence, or maybe a reason why things haven’t gone his way.
A second place at the Grand Prix of Portland was the highlight of Rossi‘s 2021 campaign, as he scored no other podiums in another year to forget.
In contrast, Herta was often up the front and fighting for victories which must have been psychologically a hit to Rossi because he just couldn’t understand why his teammate was winning, whilst he was struggling to finish in the top 10.
McLaren and Rossi: A new chapter
The start of this season didn’t see any improvement, prompting Rossi to leave Andretti which was finally announced at the start of June.
Arrow McLaren then confirmed Rossi had signed a multi-year contract to join them for 2023 and beyond. Coincidentally, Rossi had a great weekend at the next race in Detroit, finishing second to Will Power.
The result was backed up last Sunday at Road America as Rossi took his first pole position in over three years. He couldn’t convert it to victory, but he was running at the front again after going back to basics and using the exact setup which saw him dominated the 2019 race in Wisconsin.
Whether the announcement of his future in IndyCar has played a positive role in his form is difficult to say, but it certainly seems Rossi is heading back in the right direction.
“This decision was made for me kind of last summer,” Rossi told the press prior to Detroit. “It was clear that I was going to look at different options and explore what was out there.
“I’ve driven for Andretti Autosport for a long time. Sometimes you need to change things, whether that’s on a personal side, a professional side or the both combined. I think it was time for a change.
“There were a lot of things that we accomplished that were very special, that I’ll have memories of forever. They essentially gave me a base and established me in IndyCar to have a future in the IndyCar Series. I owe a lot to the organisation.
“Ultimately for me, it was time to do something different. I don’t think there’s a better pairing out there for who I am as a person and a competitor than Arrow McLaren SP.”
When will Rossi win again?
Rossi can certainly leave Andretti Autorsport with a bang should he pick up where he’s left off when IndyCar returns on July 3 at Mid-Ohio.
He’s driven very well at the last two races, no longer having to chase setup and his outright pace makes him a danger to anyone else.
Rossi is 75 points behind championship leader Marcus Ericsson and if he can find his winning form again, score a run of podiums which the 30-year-old has done in the past, he might find himself in title contention at the end of the season.
Who would have thought that when Rossi was second to last after round two in Texas?