Runner-up Alexander Rossi recaps another wild day at the Indy 500

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INDIANAPOLIS – An understandably dejected Alexander Rossi sat down in the postrace news conference and gave the short version of an extremely eventful Indianapolis 500.

“Yeah. I mean, there’s not much to say,” he said. “I think you all saw it.”

Indeed, we had, but it still was worth hearing Andretti Autosport’s cerebral star calmly deconstruct his wild day in finishing second to Simon Pagenaud after a compelling battle that followed an eventful race for the No. 27 Dallara-Honda.

FULL INDIANAPOLIS 500 COVERAGE: All of NBCSports.com’s 2019 stories over two weeks in May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

From pit stop problems to angry radio transmissions about rivals to furious attempts to pass, Rossi was the show in the Indy 500 for the second consecutive season.

He had the lead on the final restart with 14 laps remaining, but he couldn’t fend off Pagenaud on the straightaways despite staying glued to the Team Penske Chevrolet.

Rossi fought his way back to the front into Turn 1 on Lap 198 of 200, but Pagenaud reclaimed the lead for good entering the first corner on the next lap.

“We just didn’t have the straight-line speed,” said Rossi, who wasn’t faulting Honda, noting the “ebb and flow” of Indy 500 competition (and for the edge Chevys had in power, they had inferior fuel economy). “There’s not much we can do about that from my side inside the car. Obviously (Pagenaud’s) guys fully deserve it. They were on pole.

“He led probably 70% of the laps. Yeah, I mean, he was a deserving winner for sure. But that last yellow really hurt us because we were doing a lot better on fuel mileage than he was, so that was the first kind of nail in the proverbial coffin. We didn’t have the speed out front. I was flat for the last 15 laps, and there’s not much more you can do.”

The 2016 Indy 500 winner already had overcome so much. Rossi was comfortably in the lead and in control with better fuel mileage than Pagenaud when he stopped under green on Lap 138. His team struggled to refill the car because of a bad fuel probe, losing precious seconds in the pits.

Rossi caught a slight break with a caution that kept him in fifth, but it was little consolation as the third time in four Indy 500 races he had a fueling problem.

“I think you can understand why I was upset,” he said. “It can’t happen. I mean, it wasn’t a human error, it was a mechanical problem, but still, it’s not something that we can have here. It’s the biggest race in the world, and 75 percent of the time we can’t get fuel in the race car.

“We need to address that for sure, but I think the whole 27 NAPA Andretti Honda boys did a great job of recovering. (Strategist) Rob Edwards, as always, is exceptional at being the kind of steady voice and very, very helpful for me in terms of kind of getting back to center and just focusing on getting back to where we needed to be.”

The stop didn’t affect Rossi’s result, but the final caution for a five-car crash did.

“They recovered nicely,” he said. “Our last pit stop was mega, got us back into the lead before that final yellow came out, which, was probably the thing that ultimately cost us the race.”

After starting ninth, Rossi mostly bided his time in the first half before taking his first lead on Lap 102 and then turned on his trademark aggression. He was a sight to behold even when he couldn’t complete passes on the treacherous outside lane (such as when he tried to get by Sebastien Bourdais on the restart after the fueling problem).

He also was apoplectic on his team radio about what he felt were unfair blocking maneuvers by the lapped cars of Helio Castroneves and Oriol Servia.

“I think it was one of the most disrespectful things I’ve ever seen in a race car, to be honest,” Rossi said of Servia. “He’s a lap down and defending, putting me to the wall at 230 miles an hour. It’s unacceptable. It’s unacceptable for him, and it’s unacceptable that IndyCar allowed it to happen as long as they did.”

Pagenaud was blocking as well on the final lap, and Edwards radioed Rossi that the team put in a request for IndyCar stewards to take a look at it, though Rossi wasn’t expecting a repeat of the Kentucky Derby.
           “I mean, yeah, (Pagenaud) was moving in reaction for sure, but the last lap of the Indy 500, they’re not going to do anything about it,” he said. “It’s kind of irrelevant.”
As was having another chance at trying to win the race.

Asked how badly he wanted to get back in the car, Rossi smiled wryly.

“I mean, it would be the same result, so not that badly, to be honest,” he said.

F1 tests: Mercedes innovates with wheel adjustment system

Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images
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MONTMELÓ, Spain — Veteran Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time on the second day of Formula One preseason testing on Thursday, but Mercedes still garnered more attention by introducing an innovative wheel adjustment system.

On-board footage showed defending champion Lewis Hamilton pulling the steering wheel back and forth on the front straight to apparently change the angle of the front wheels on his Mercedes car.

The team stayed tight-lipped about the car’s new feature but guaranteed it was “safe” and “legal.”

“I probably won’t shed a great deal more light than what you saw on the TV but yeah we have a system in the car, it’s a novel idea,” team technical director James Allison told F1 TV. ”We’ve got a name for it, it’s called DAS, if you’re interested, and it just introduces an extra dimension for the steering, for the driver, which we hope will be useful during the year. But precisely how we use it and why we use it, that’s something we will keep to ourselves.”

Allison said governing body FIA knew in advance that the team was introducing the new system.

“It’s something we’ve been talking to them (about) for some time,” he said. “The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems and we’re pretty confident that it matches those requirements. I’m pleased we got it on the car, it seems to be useful, and we’ll see over the coming days how it benefits us.”

Hamilton said he was still trying to get used to the system, but praised the team for coming up with the innovation.

“I’ve only had one morning on (it, so) I don’t really have a lot to talk about with it. We’re trying to get on top of it, understand it, but safety-wise no problem today and the FIA are OK with the project.

“For me it’s really encouraging to see that my team is continuing to innovate and stay ahead of the game, and I think that’s down to the great minds in the team and so hopefully that’ll work to our benefit.”

Hamilton led the time charts on Wednesday but was only ninth-fastest on Thursday.

MORE: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas fastest in Day 1 of F1 practice
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The 40-year-old Raikkonen, who has a chance this season to break the record for most race starts in F1, was fastest with a time of 1 minute, 17.091 seconds in his Alfa Romea. He was 0.2 seconds quicker than Sergio Pérez with Racing Point. Daniel Ricciardo of Renault was third.

Raikkonen caused a red flag near the end of the afternoon session when his car stopped on the track with an apparent mechanical issue. The Finnish driver had spun earlier in the session, as did Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes, Romain Grosjean of Haas and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, formerly known as Toro Rosso.

Grosjean had the most laps among the 13 drivers who went to the track on Thursday, with 158.

Bottas was the slowest driver of the day, while Sebastian Vettel was sixth-fastest with Ferrari.

Pérez had set the quickest time in the morning session. The Mexican driver had been third fastest on Wednesday, behind Hamilton and Bottas.

Drivers will be back on the track on Friday to close out the first week of testing. Teams will have another three days to test next week.

Preseason testing has been reduced from eight to six days to help compensate for the record 22 races on the calendar, including a new Vietnam Grand Prix and the return of the Dutch GP. Midseason testing also has been eliminated.

The season opens on March 15 at the Australian GP.

The Barcelona-Catalunya track will host the Spanish GP on May 10.