The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was the second race on the 2021 IndyCar calendar and the action did not disappoint. Alexander Rossi ran consistently in the top 10, until a racing incident on track with Graham Rahal caused a tire puncture forcing the 27 machine to finish two laps down.
"It was a disappointing day,” said Rossi. "I think we had a top-five car that could have been on the podium. It was just a racing deal in Turn 4 with Graham (Rahal). Obviously, it was close and we got a tire puncture because of it which caused us to go into the wall in Turn 5. It’s unfortunate that it hurt both of us.”
“(Contact) happens,” Rahal said. “Alex is a pretty fair guy, so I don’t think there are any hard feelings. It’s a shame for the flat right front because I think we both could have gone through perfectly fine and continued our days. But it is what it is.”
Rossi said he was still on cold tires and therefore not yet up to full speed when the initial incident occurred.
“I feel like I gave him room – I didn’t have him on the curb or anything,” Andretti Autosport driver Rossi said. “It’s one of those racing things.
“Obviously, looking at (the television replay) it’s unfortunate he ended up on the outside of me when I had the flat tire. I wasn’t trying to drive him into Turn 5. The contact in Turn 4 is what kind of caused our issue, and it’s one of those things – you’re racing for the same piece of real estate.”
Rossi’s poor finish dropped him to 16th in the standings after two races, not the position he hoped to be in after struggling through last year’s winless season. But he refused to hang his head.
“I think frustration building in the past has cost us,” he said. “The good thing is, the car is fast. That’s usually the harder problem to fix. It’s a lot different than last year when we were having these issues and didn’t have car speed.
“The car is quick this year, and at one point, things will line up for us.”
Andretti Autosport took home a trophy with fellow driver Colton Herta winning the race from Pole. "Our AutoNation / NAPA AUTO PARTS Honda was really good and I definitely think we deserved to be up there, but it wasn’t meant to be,” said Rossi. "Congrats to Colton (Herta) and we’ll go on to Texas next week.”
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES now heads straight to Texas Motor Speedway for the final race of three-in-a-row to open the 2021 season. The Texas doubleheader kicks off Saturday, May 1.