MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. Marco Andretti improved a bit from 2016 but still had a year shy of expectations, ending 12th.
Marco Andretti, No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda
- 2016: 16th Place, Best Finish 8th, Best Start 11th, 0 Top-5, 3 Top-10, 0 Laps Led, 17.4 Avg. Start, 12.8 Avg. Finish
- 2017: 12th Place, Best Finish 4th, Best Start 8th, 1 Top-5, 5 Top-10, 16 Laps Led, 13.4 Avg. Start, 12.1 Avg. Finish
The latest season reset for Marco Andretti came after a career-worst 2016, but like after his last career-worst year of 2012, Andretti took a look in the mirror and sought to correct things that weren’t going right. There were also team adjustments – for Andretti specifically, namely moving Bryan Herta over to his timing stand to become race strategist – aimed at lifting him back out of the upper midfield into the upper crust of the field.
Did it all work? Sort of. Andretti improved upon every measurable stat from 2016, but Andretti still ranked 12th in points, fourth among four of the Andretti Autosport drivers as Alexander Rossi (11th to seventh), Takuma Sato (17th to eighth) and Ryan Hunter-Reay (12th to ninth) slotted into higher positions in the standings.
At Andretti’s traditionally strong circuits – St. Petersburg, Barber, Indianapolis, Iowa and Sonoma – he banked three of his best season finishes. He book-ended the year with sevenths and added an eighth in the Indianapolis 500, but he never quite looked the measure of his teammates in May. His best result came in Toronto with fourth but even then he finished behind Rossi, and one spot ahead of Hunter-Reay, and all of those three drivers benefited from lucky caution timing.
The challenge here was in-weekend consistency. Andretti was a top-three regular on a number of Fridays in practice in road and street course races. But far too often, he and engineer Nathan O’Rourke worked to push harder in qualifying and going just outside that ideal setup window backfired. Andretti failed to make a Firestone Fast Six for a third consecutive season; come St. Petersburg next year, it will be four years since the last time he made the top six in qualifying on one of these circuits. That again made Sundays a day of playing catch-up.
Sato had Andretti on pace, Rossi had him on consistency and Hunter-Reay had him on grit. Andretti remained a regular race finisher, if nothing else. His two DNFs were not his fault, with a mechanical issue in Long Beach and getting collected by Mikhail Aleshin in Phoenix.
Now 30 and married, Andretti has a lot going for him and does remain focused on his task at hand. Still, he’s now hit 12 seasons complete with 200 career starts, and for the his first time in his career he finished out of the top-10 in points in successive years. He’ll have another opportunity to change the narrative with the new universal aero kit in 2018.