By Adam Tate, Managing Editor
Manor F1 reserve driver and 2015 GP2 runner up Alexander Rossi took to the wheel of the No. 98 Andretti-Herta Autosport machine for a tough but solid debut in his first IndyCar race during today’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. He finished a lap down in 12th place.
A result that perhaps fell somewhat short of expectations, but one that only confirms the quality of Rossi’s talent as a newcomer to IndyCar. A difficult qualifying session saw him struggle on Saturday and start today’s race back in 18th. The fact that he brought the car home, albeit a lap down on what was such a chaotic, madcap day despite getting caught up in the mid-race turn 4 quagmire, is to be commended.
That was probably one of the more challenging days I’ve had in a race car in quite some time.
– Alexander Rossi
The result becomes all the more impressive as despite it being Rossi’s first start in the Verizon IndyCar Series he managed to advance six positions from the start and led home the talented rookie class of Conor Daly, Spencer Pigot and fellow F1 refugee Max Chilton.
Post race Rossi reflected on the difficult day, “It was quite tricky out there. I think we made the most of what we could, we stayed out of trouble and obviously the finishing position doesn’t look that bad but, considering we were a lap down, it’s a bit of an issue.”
Rossi has all the tools at his disposal to not only grow, but thrive in IndyCar for 2016 as he continues the quest for F1 glory. Until that dream can come true, he has atleast an entire season of IndyCar to further prove himself. He is getting more comfortable behind the wheel, “As I drive it more, have a better understanding of how it works, I’ll start to enjoy it a little bit more.” Rossi said this weekend. As he grows and especially as he prepares for the next race in Phoenix, the season’s first oval, he would be wise to learn from his strong stable of teammates, especially 2012 IndyCar champ Ryan Hunter-Reay who has a similar driving style to Rossi and finished third today.
We will continue to closely follow Rossi’s year, and how he will juggle the unique position of racing in IndyCar and fulfilling a reserve driver role in Formula One, in the same season.
Image: Joe Skibinski/INDYCAR