Former F1 driver Alexander Rossi admits he’s puzzled at the loss of speed he felt during Saturday’s qualifying session at St. Petersburg, but believes his race pace will be more representative of his potential.
Although Rossi finished Friday’s afternoon practice session in 13th place, he was only 21st in qualifying. The blending of the times from Groups 1 and 2 in the Q1 segment means the #98 Andretti-Herta Autosport driver will start his first IndyCar race from 19th on the grid.
Rossi told Motorsport.com: “It was very disappointing. I don’t really know how to quantify it yet. We need to sit down and discuss where different cars may have gone in different directions, setup-wise.
“I thought we were in a pretty good position on Friday, and then Saturday morning we were OK but had a bit of an issue which we tried to resolve for qualifying. I don’t know if we did, so we need to look into that.
“We just didn’t really have any pace and that’s a bit of a mystery because we didn’t do a lot to the car overnight. We felt we had a good handle on the direction we were going. But I think we’ll need to reconsider that position quite radically and come up with a new solution for the race, because clearly what we did wasn’t working.”
No problem with qualifying tires
Rossi said he had no issues adapting to the extra grip provided by the softer red-walled tires, which he had not experienced until qualifying, and that these had not changed the balance of the car.
“We’re still working on the balance to suit me,” Rossi admitted. “Some runs are better than others. The problem is that as the track changed and evolved we didn’t keep on top of it.
“There is potential there, obviously, because Ryan [Hunter-Reay] made it to the Firestone Fast Six, but the other three of us seemed to be struggling a bit. Our setup is quite a bit different from Ryan’s and I guess that’s a bit of a good thing because at least we’ve established what doesn’t work and it gives us a direction to follow. Having one car that’s fast will definitely help the other three.
“In driving style, Ryan and I are pretty close. In fact, I don’t think any of the four of us are radically different from each other, so we don’t have to do too much digging to find the way forward.”
Confident of race pace
Rossi said he believed that once everyone stepped back from the ultimate one-lap pace required by qualifying, the #98 car would be able to make progress on race day.
“We should be a lot closer,” he said. “Our single-lap performance has been missing just because there is a little bit of a lack of comfort in the car still and general understanding of how to pull the ultimate lap out of it.
“But generally all our racecars are going to be the same in terms of race set-up and based on the testing we did, there were very similar kinds of results.
“So we’re definitely out of position on the grid and we’ll be looking to change that early on. The warm-up will give us a chance to establish what will be the best way forward for all of us.”