Where Will Alexander Rossi End Up in 2023?

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Next weekend, Alexander Rossi will kick off his seventh straight season as a driver in the NTT IndyCar Series. All of that time has been spent with Andretti Autosport (AA). The question that is looming as Rossi enters the final year of his current contract is – where will Rossi be in 2023?

We all remember when Alexander Rossi was rookie in 2016, when he won the Indianapolis 500 in its historic 100th Running. I’ll admit, I wasn’t too fired up to see a young, seemingly aloof Formula One reject that had made it clear he didn’t really want to be in IndyCar – drinking the milk that day. I felt he had zero appreciation for what he had just done. I don’t think I was alone.

As the 2016 season wore on, I began to appreciate Rossi’s talents as a driver; but I was still a little skeptical of him off the track. That has changed.

From his rookie season in 2016, through his signing a new contract with Andretti near the 2019 season – I saw Alexander Rossi grow as a driver and as a person. Not only had he amassed a stellar record in the Indianapolis 500 (first, seventh, fourth and second), he was a contender at practically every track the series went to. His ranking at the end of each season from 2016 through 2019 was eleventh, seventh, second and third. His 2018 and 2019 seasons were particularly impressive looking at his championship standings and his results in the Indianapolis 500. He proved long ago that his 2016 Indianapolis 500 win was no fluke.

I was there at Road America in 2019, when Rossi absolutely dominated the field. Colton Herta won the pole, but by Turn Three of the first lap, Rossi took the lead and was never challenged. The race ran caution-free and Rossi led fifty-four of the fifty-five laps. Graham Rahal led the only other lap as Rossi pitted on Lap 42.

Little did we know that while we were watching complete and total domination that day at Road America, we were also watching Rossi’s last win until, well…we’re still waiting.

Allegedly, Rossi was being courted by Team Penske to sign a contract beginning with the 2020 season. Rossi had already forged a relationship with the team in their sports car program. Simon Pagenaud had been on shaky ground heading into the season, but he stabilized his situation by winning the Indianapolis 500, just ahead of Alexander Rossi, a few months earlier. It was unclear if Will Power going to be the odd man out or if Penske would go back to running a fourth car.

It turned out to be a moot point, because Rossi ultimately re-signed with Andretti.

For the previous three years, Alexander Rossi had been the man at Andretti Autosport. He was the highest finishing driver at AA from 2017-2019. He had won two races in 2019 and I’m sure thought more would follow in the coming seasons. Starting in 2020, AA continued a decline that had been going on for a while. Rossi had appeared immune to this downfall, but in 2020 – it bit him too. After finishing seventh, second and third in the championship, Rossi went winless in 2020 for the first time in his IndyCar career and finished ninth. He vowed to return strong in 2021, but it was worse – finishing tenth.

His magical touch at Indianapolis went away also. After finishing first, seventh, fourth and second; Rossi finished twenty-seventh and twenty-ninth in his last two Indianapolis 500s.

The only driver that seemed immune to consistently bad results in 2020 and 2021 was Colton Herta, who finished third and fifth respectively, in those two seasons.

After four strong seasons where Rossi was clearly the best driver on the team, he didn’t suddenly forget how to drive in 2020. Was it bad luck, bad strategy, a combination of both or did Michael Andretti decided to put all of the best people on Herta’s car? Rob Edwards has been Rossi’s chief strategist for years and is certainly capable. Yes, there have been a few strategy blunders along the way, but every team has a few of those each season.

But whatever the case, the results have eluded Alexander Rossi for the past two seasons, and really – ever since that day at Road America. The best he managed for the remainder of the 2019 season was two third-place finishes in the final eight races.

In 2020, Rossi started off with a fifteenth, a twenty-fifth and a nineteenth-place finish in the first three races. A twenty-seventh in a double-points paying Indianapolis 500 also did a lot of damage. He did manage to string together four consecutive podium finishes before posting a twenty-first in the season finale at St. Petersburg.

Normally, a ninth-place finish to start the 2021 season at Barber would be a disappointment for Alexander Rossi. But it was much better than the previous opener. But when he again posted a twenty-first place finish at St. Petersburg, it looked like 2021 was going to be a repeat of 2020. It was. Rossi’s best finishes for 2021 were a second at Portland, a fourth on the IMS road course on the Brickyard weekend, a fifth at Mid-Ohio and a seventh in the GMR Grand Prix – one podium for the entire sixteen-race season.

These results have been very perplexing to me. Rossi has gone from being an elite driver in 2018-19, to being an afterthought heading into the 2022 IndyCar season. Rossi is now thirty and is no longer considered one of the young drivers. This is the prime of his career and the results are going to other drivers, one on his own team. Rossi is no longer the man at Andretti Autosport. That title goes to Colton Herta, but even team newcomer Romain Grosjean may command more team respect than Rossi.

One thing I’ve learned about Alexander Rossi is to not be fooled by his cool exterior. He has a sharp, almost biting, wit; and he is extremely competitive. Like the late Al Unser, Rossi sometimes misleads people with his quiet demeanor. It masks a boiling desire inside. I don’t think he has lost his drive or desire – I think he simply hasn’t had the car underneath him to get the results he wants.

I would like to think that Alexander Rossi is going to see a turnaround this season. Unlike my first impressions of Rossi, he has quickly become one of my favorite drivers in the field. I think he now understands what it meant to win the Indianapolis 500, and I would like to see him win another one – now that he “gets it”.

I would also like to see Rossi win a championship. He is too good a driver to retire from this sport in a few years without a championship to show for his talents. Can he do that with Andretti Autosport? They haven’t won a championship since 2012, when Ryan Hunter-Reay won his only championship.

If you made it through the end of the video that Paul Dalbey and I did here a couple of weeks ago, we debated the question of where Rossi will be in 2023. That’s assuming that Rossi has a good season and actually has options – such as Team Penske. We both offered speculation that despite the three-year extension he signed last year – Will Power may be on the hot-seat and Rossi could be a nice replacement for him in the No. 2 Verizon car.

But as we tossed it back and forth, I came to the conclusion that despite having a good season – Rossi would end up re-signing again with Andretti Autosport. Paul wasn’t so sure. He never came out and said that Rossi would be a Penske driver next season, but he seemed to be more inclined to say that Rossi would not be with Andretti in 2023.

What do you think? Will Rossi follow the theory of “Better to go with the devil you know”, and stick with Andretti? Is there some internal strife at Andretti that has caused these results for the past two seasons? If Rossi gets off to a slow start and seems headed for another bad season, will Team Penske even be interested in him? Will he be damaged goods at that point? Will Andretti even be interested in keeping him beyond this season?

There are a lot of very interesting storylines headed into the 2022 IndyCar season. I’m not sure if any will be more interesting to follow than where Alexander Rossi ends up in 2023.

George Phillips

4 Responses to “Where Will Alexander Rossi End Up in 2023?”

  1. My gut tells me that Kirkwood may well replace Will Power or Scott McLaughlin at Penske. I know Power has a long term contract in place but like Rossi he really needs to improve on 2021 in 2022. Kirkwood would be a season short or two for the usual Penske style hires however as the field gets younger Cindric may enjoy taking Kirkwood from Andretti as a longer term prospect than Rossi.

  2. AJ VanPelt Says:

    Rossi will have to earn his next ride, wherever that might be. Past results have lost their luster due to his last two seasons. He is talented and has a lot in his favor, checks a lot of boxes. It seems too many things have to happen to get him to Penske. What we don’t know is how he feels or thinks about Andretti Autosport and his teammates. Could speculate he isn’t happy. We don’t know. Let’s throw this out there: MSR. Honda, growing team, good resources, familiar sponsor and sports car opportunities.

  3. billytheskink Says:

    Rossi’s future will depend at least partially on the performances of other drivers, perhaps as much as it will depend on Rossi himself. Two of Penske’s three drivers disappointed last year (by Penske standards), Ganassi and Rahal have been known to see unexpected movement from time-to-time, MSR has two older drivers, and AMSP has $$$ to spend and one driver who is definitely on the hot seat.

    That said, staying at Andretti would really seem to be the most likely scenario for Rossi.

  4. not my quote:

    “The unknown has an infinite potential to make things better and make things worse, but your current situation is a CERTAIN. The decision is clear. The devil you don’t know may not be so devilish after all.”

    here is a link about Game Theory and changing:
    https://behavioralscientist.org/steven-pinker-rationality-why-you-should-always-switch-the-monty-hall-problem-finally-explained/

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