By Aaron Bearden, Open Wheel Editor
ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin — Road America served as a true start to the second half of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season, giving teams and drivers a chance to start fresh and make a statement for the ensuing seven races.
Robert Wickens found himself facing the same dilemma he saw at the start of the year – an on-track incident with Alexander Rossi. The pair came together on the opening lap of Sunday’s Kohler Grand Prix, with Wickens getting the worst of it and dropping back after contact. Wickens ended up rebounding to finish fifth, while separate issues relegated Rossi to a 16th-place result.
Their run-in came just eight races after a crash at St. Petersburg that ended what once appeared to be a victorious day for Wickens. This time the Canadien didn’t shy away from voicing his frustration with Rossi after the fact.
“You give (Rossi) space and then he just doesn’t turn and drives into the side of you,” Wickens said. “Karma’s a b****, because from what I heard he retired, or at least had to stop with a suspension issue. It’s just frustrating. The kid’s so fast. He’s going for a championship.”
Rossi’s aggressive driving style has been one of the highlights of 2018. The Californian was criticized for his season-opening shunt with Wickens, but in oval races at ISM Raceway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway Rossi supplied a highlight reel of risky passes.
The Andretti Autosport star’s style has proven thrilling on more than one occasion, but Wickens believes it may also be costing him a shot at securing the 2018 IndyCar title.
“The thing with Alex, he puts himself in situations that if the other person doesn’t give, they’re going to crash,” Wickens later continued. “He’s just that kind of guy. So what do you do? If you race him differently you’re both just going to crash. Thats just the way I look at it.
“I’m not trying to beat on the kid, it’s just… I think every now and then you just have to use some judgment. Think about how many points he’s thrown away this year. At some point he should sit down and kind of re-think how he’s approaching a problem, right?”
According to the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver, Rossi would serve himself well to give up positions in certain circumstances.
“I think he needs to concede from time-to-time,” Wickens said. “He races every corner like it’s the last lap. That’s the way he’s always been when he was in Europe, and honestly that’s probably what got him to IndyCar to be perfectly honest with you. He’s a ruthless guy.”
Rossi and Wickens have spent a large portion of the 2018 season together, having both contended for wins and run up front throughout the season en-route to top seven positions in the championship standings. Given the intense racing that both stars provide, occasional instances of contact are near-unavoidable.
So while Wickens was critical of Rossi’s style after the race, the 29-year-old had no urge to push Rossi away or call him an enemy.
“We train together,” Wickens said. “It’s the same thing with St. Pete. After we didn’t talk for a couple weeks, we sat down, had a drink and just kind of hashed it out, and we were fine.
“Him and I go way back. Honestly unless it’s for a championship I don’t think a little on-track thing is going to piss us off to that extent.”