Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato says he feels sympathy for Alexander Rossi after the latter’s race was ruined by a pitlane penalty, although he believes that the stewards’ hands were tied by the rules.
Rossi had been trading the lead with Scott Dixon during the mid-point of the race and was running fourth when the bulk of the field pitted under a yellow. Amid the chaos of a packed pitlane, he was released into the path of Sato, who was already boxed in by Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward to his right. The pair made harmless wheel-to-wheel contact, but Rossi was subsequently sent to the back of the field as a punishment for an unsafe release, and crashed out while trying to fight his way back.
“That was very unfortunate for Alex,” Sato told RACER. “Fundamentally, when the driver has been told to go out… you go for it, so there’s really nothing he could do. However with the congestion, it was very difficult circumstance. I had Pato on the outside, so I couldn’t go anywhere. I hit the brakes as hard as I could and tried to avoid Rossi, but we made contact.
“But IndyCar’s written rule about the high-speed lane and the low-speed lane is that if there is a car in the low-speed lane, you simply can’t release. That’s the written rule. So I think IndyCar’s race stewards simply followed the rule book. It’s shame for [Rossi]; he got penalized for that. But it was just a very unfortunate incident.”