Sunday, June 4, 2023

Rosenqvist thought Rossi ‘Had Already Given up on The Corner’ in Collision at Toronto

Alexander Rossi in front of a large portion of the field at the 2022 Honda Indy Toronto.
Alexander Rossi in front of a large portion of the field at the 2022 Honda Indy Toronto. Photo courtesy of Joe Skibinski/Penske Entertainment

TORONTO — For the second IndyCar Series race in a row, Alexander Rossi had significant contact when being overtaken by a fellow competitor. This time, however, the contact was race-ending in Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto.

The 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner was in fourth place just past the halfway point in the 85-lap race with Felix Rosenqvist immediately behind the No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda. As the pair approached the Turn 3 hairpin on Lap 45, Rosenqvist made a late dive on Rossi to get fourth place from the California native.

Rosenqvist got fully along side Rossi just after the corner apex when suddenly the rear end of the No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet lost grip and the Swedish racer had to quickly steer his car to the left to stop the sliding. With Rossi immediately to Rosenqvist’s left, however, that left no room for Rosenqvist’s car to slide and the left side tires hit Rossi’s car with enough force that it sent Rossi’s car directly into the left side wall exiting the corner.

Rossi’s race was over on the spot and the 2018 IndyCar Series championship runner-up would finish 23rd.

“It’s one of those things,” Rossi told NBC’s Dillon Welch. “I’ve heard you guys in the booth are comparing it to last week (at Mid-Ohio) though, but the big difference is I wasn’t the one doing the overtaking last week, so not quite the same. But neither here nor there, it’s a shame, you know we had a car to be up front.”

Rossi was referring to the most recent IndyCar Series race at Mid-Ohio when he had contact with teammate Romain Grosjean on two laps in a row while the Swiss-born Frenchman was trying to overtake Rossi on the outside of The Keyhole hairpin. Rossi also had contact in that same race while trying to pass Andretti Autosport teammate Devlin DeFrancesco, sending the Toronto native off track and netting Rossi a pit lane drive-thru penalty for avoidable contact.

As for Rosenqvist, the former Toronto Indy Lights race winner saw that there was a gap on Rossi’s inside approaching the corner and made a move, believing that Rossi looked weak on the brakes heading to the corner.

“I did kind of a little surprise move,” Rosenqvist said in the post-race press conference. “Was fairly far up by the time we turned in. I kind of thought that [Rossi] had already given up on the corner. I just saw him, like, hang around the outside. I was like, Okay. I mean, fair play if you want to try to go around outside. At some point you run out of road.

“I think [Rossi] probably bumped his wheel or something. That’s kind of what it felt like. He ran into my side pod, probably lost a wheel and hit the wall. I don’t know if it was fair play, to be honest. He normally races hard. I’ve been racing him previously where it’s been to his advantage in that situation and I’ve lost a bunch of spots. Today he lost his race.”

Rosenqvist finished third behind race winner Scott Dixon and Colton Herta. This podium was Rosenqvist’s first since his last IndyCar win at Road America in 2020, and that streak has put the two-time Macau Grand Prix winner under immense pressure.

Pato O’Ward and Rossi are both signed to race for Arrow McLaren SP in 2023, which will expand to field three cars. McLaren recently announced Alex Palou as a new driver in their empire without saying which series the Spaniard would race in. That announcement came hours after Chip Ganassi Racing had announced that Palou would remain with the team for 2023, starting a contractual dispute over who owned the rights to Palou’s services for the next calendar year.

The question over where Rosenqvist will drive in 2023 has yet to be answered despite McLaren having confirmed that he will be a part of their lineup. Some have pointed toward Formula E, since McLaren will join that series and Rosenqvist has three wins in that championship. Nothing has been decided regarding Rosenqvist’s future, but the 2019 IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year has his preference on where he’d like to earn a living.

“I’ve made my point that I’m very happy with the team,” Rosenqvist said. “I think it shows, a super group. I think we worked hard the last two years to kind of build up a very strong team. We have good strategy, good pit stops. I think I’m able to extract most out of the car most weekends now. I think if you asked me end of last year, obviously it would have been a different answer. But right now I’m just very happy where I’m at. I think I would be crazy if I said I wanted to go somewhere else.”

Follow @CDeHarde on Twitter.

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