Isolated Incident or Team Drama?

The fallout continues from the implosion at Andretti Autosport this past Sunday. There is plenty of finger-pointing and accusations as to who was at fault – especially regarding the tussle over two laps between Alexander Rossi and Romain Grosjean. Then there was the gaffe of leaving Colton Herta on track, when he should have pitted – knowing a caution was about to come out.

If that wasn’t enough drama, Andretti Autosport went into full damage-control mode after the race. They were shutting down interviews early when they didn’t care for the questions about the dynamic within the team, and even stood over the shoulder of one prominent IndyCar media member to make sure a video involving an exchange between Michael Andretti and Rossi’s father/manager, Pieter Rossi, was fully deleted from their phone – at least, that’s the gist of what I’m hearing; but I wasn’t there to witness it, so I can’t say for certain. Therefore, I won’t comment about their crossing the line into censorship (although I guess I just did). There’s a difference between controlling the narrative and exerting control of what was recorded in a public space…but I digress.

What I will comment on is what we all saw on track on Sunday during the Honda 200 at Mid-Ohio.

One longtime reader commented on Sunday’s post “I can’t believe you didn’t call out Rossi for what he really is…”. Apparently, the reader is not alone in his sentiments about Rossi. He was one of the many hot topics on social media after the race. Most seem to feel that Rossi has declared war on his current employer and their drivers, now that he is moving on to Arrow McLaren SP for next season and beyond. I think that’s an extreme opinion.

Professional motorsports journalists are never supposed to reveal who they like and don’t like in the paddock. They are to dig deep to uncover the truth and present the facts to the public, leaving their personal opinion out of things.

I don’t do this for a living. In fact, I don’t make a dime off of this site. This past May, I had someone who does this for a living, ask me how I make money off of this site, since they saw no visible means of revenue here. When I explained that I don’t make any money, this person looked at me like I had two heads. I say that to say that I’m not a journalist and I don’t have a problem letting you know which drivers I like, and which ones I don’t.

For the record – I am a big fan of both Alexander Rossi and Romain Grosjean. Like most fans, I came to appreciate Grosjean’s attitude and demeanor last season, when he was driving for Dale Coyne. He seemed to love IndyCar as well as America; and he genuinely seemed to appreciate the second chance at life he had been given, after his terrifying F1 crash at Bahrain in November of 2020.

Rossi was more of an acquired taste. When he first came to the series in 2016, I did not care for him. He seemed aloof and acted like he didn’t want to be here, which I think was fairly accurate. Since then, I think Rossi acclimated himself to the series and gained a real appreciation for the competitiveness of the series. I also came to appreciate his dry sense of humor and his outright quirkiness.

Both drivers are excellent drivers, and that’s not even the question here – although Grosjean did label his teammate as an idiot twice on Sunday. At dispute, for some, is whether or not Rossi is trying to sabotage his Andretti Autosport teammates, since he is leaving. I don’t personally know Alexander Rossi, but I think I know enough about him to confidently say that he is not.

In fact, I don’t even think Rossi was at fault either of the laps in question through the keyhole on Sunday. The first time, Rossi was simply making his car as wide as possible and making it difficult for Grosjean to pass him. The second time through, it does appear that Rossi nudged Grosjean into the grass and ultimately into the tire barrier. But a closer look shows that the wheel-to-wheel contact knocked the steering wheel out of Rossi’s hands and he really had no control where his car went or what happened with Grosjean.

Rossi described it as simply a racing incident, and seemed a little miffed in his post-race interview when asked if he is having any type of feud or disagreement with his teammates. He has said before that even though he is headed to McLaren next season, his drive and professionalism has him focused on the championship this season.

Maybe I’m naïve, but I take him at his word. Just like Alex Palou cooled off a few days after Road America, when he was certain that teammate Marcus Ericsson took him out; I think we’ll hear from a much more reasonable Romain Grosjean later this week.

So, call Rossi out for what he is? I’m not sure what that is.

Fans and media are longing for any type of drama within the series, especially with four seasons of Formula One: Drive to Survive sitting there for binge-watching on Netflix. If the drama is within the same team – even better. There very well may be some inter-team drama going on at Andretti Autosport. The fact that their PR staff is in damage control mode indicates that harmony does not rule within the team. But as far as the skirmish between Alexander Rossi and Romain Grosjean at Mid-Ohio goes, I think it is an isolated incident that had nothing to do with any implosion going on within the team. I may be proven wrong later this week, but that’s my opinion and I’m sticking with it.

George Phillips

7 Responses to “Isolated Incident or Team Drama?”

  1. billytheskink Says:

    Much of the online sentiment I saw agreed with you, George, citing Grosjean’s moves as optimistic at best… though I can’t say I run in the circles where Grosjean may have brought over some of his less objective fans from Formula 1. Such fans aren’t limited to Grosjean, of course. Most of us excoriate the guys we don’t like when they make a mistake or come across whiny while letting our favorites off a lot lighter for the same behavior… ignoring the fact that, with a few exceptions, race car drivers never think it is their fault when something goes wrong. It’s true at the local short track, it’s true at the karting facility, and it’s true in Indycar.

    That said, it is clear the current make up of the Andretti team, from the drivers on down, is not working especially well. Then again, they aren’t alone… outside of Penske and Ganassi, every team has had multiple races where they seemed to be in disarray. Granted, not every team is part of a purported “big 3”, but even AMSP, the oft-cited “big 3” replacement for Andretti, has had multiple races (Texas, Mid-Ohio) where things went as badly as anything that has happened to Michael’s squad this year.

  2. Some fans have a really short memory. They seem to forget that Grosjean has not endeared himself to the rest of the paddock.

    Like you, I saw the wheel come out of Rossi’s hands just before they both went off. I would like to see what happened during the 2.25 miles between the 2 keyhole incidents.

  3. Mark Wick Says:

    I don’t believe Rossi is doing anything other than trying to win races and gain the championship this season. He knows McLaren is watching him and even with a contract in hand, he is still being evaluated. If McLaren decides he might not be a team player and would disrupt team harmony, there are ways to get out of contracts.

  4. From the Indy Star yesterday…..The root of all of it, Andretti told IndyStar immediately following the race, were “personalities not getting along” behind the scenes — an issue, he acknowledged, that didn’t suddenly occur at Mid-Ohio.

    “It’s not just today,” Andretti said, “but it all came to a head today.”

    Good article. I’d offer up a link, but like all Gannett-owned publications, if you don’t pay for the subscription, you can’t read it. Same even applies to my little South Bend Tribune since Gannett bought it.

    Anyway….From what I gather, this wasn’t an isolated incident. They’ve got issues over there. Oh if only Robin Miller was here to dig into all this for us! Looking forward to hearing the Hinch & Rossi podcast this week, though I don’t think we’ll get much from Alexander on the subject. He’s a professional. Plus I imagine the team put a gag order on their drivers, which honestly is the prudent thing to do here. They need to work it out internally. I hope they do. If any of you are like me, I loved this organization back in the Franchitti/Kanaan/Wheldon/B. Herta days. It would be nice to see the team get back to some level of that success. It would be good for IndyCar as well.

    George, I hope Susan is doing ok. I appreciate the updates. I haven’t commented in a while, but you guys have been in my thoughts. Take care.

  5. Big Mac Says:

    I didn’t see any problem with Rossi’s defensive maneuver the first time around. But I wouldn’t absolve him for the second incident. I understand that his steering wheel flew out of his hands, but it seems to me that if your defensive maneuver causes you to lose control of your car, you shouldn’t have been executing that maneuver.

    More generally, while I wouldn’t say that Rossi is *trying* to punt Grosjean, I don’t think that he particularly minds that outcome, either. And it seems that most of the paddock feels likewise. What goes around tends to come around, and when you consider not just the Rahal incident, but also Grosjean creaming Sato at St. Pete and then refusing to take responsibility for an accident that was quite obviously his fault … well, it seems that after a year of being on his best behavior, he remembered at the beginning of this season that he’s French, and decided to start fulfilling the stereotype.

  6. OliverW Says:

    Whatever the rights or wrongs I think that the big loser is Michael Andretti. His F1 dream looks very shaken while his INDYCAR team is shaky. Penske and Ganassi are more professional and winning. If Chip does lose a driver to McLaren I reckon Herta might be looking and on that basis how about Herta for McLaren INDYCAR.
    Is Rob Edward’s cutting the mustard ? Something there needs change.

    Re the drivers. Rossi is tough but not out of order. Not sure if he is quite the calibre of a few others.
    Grosjean is naive and fast
    Herta is great needing more consistency
    DeFrancesco should not be in INDYCAR. Nice guy but.

    I think they should drop to three cars and get there house in order however wonder if Michael’s lifestyle sucks cash from the team. No evidence of that just a thought.

  7. victorlovisa is right.
    “personalities not getting along”
    and THAT and ONLY THAT
    is what drives F1 TV ratings.
    conflict and drama sells.
    achievement is so out-dated.

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