Michael Andretti doesn’t believe the rumors suggesting his friend and business partner Zak Brown has signed his most tenured driver. Whether Alexander Rossi will eventually move from Andretti Autosport to Arrow McLaren SP when his contract expires at the end of the season is another matter altogether.
Speaking with RACER on Monday, Andretti said “Zak wouldn’t even do that” before referencing the clause in Rossi’s contract which prohibits the 2016 Indy 500 winner from making contact with other teams and entering into negotiations until a specific date is reached later in the year.
“It’s status quo from where we were before; we’re still evaluating the [contract] situation and we’ll make a decision on what we want do later in the year,” Andretti added. “And Alex is on the same page. He can’t talk to any teams or do anything with any teams contract-wise, and so we’re just hoping things turn around with him and maybe we can keep things going.”
With their last win earned together in June of 2019 and an ongoing series of issues that have kept Rossi out of title contention, Andretti is genuinely rooting for the 30-year-old Californian to rebound in his No. 27 Honda. The start to the 2022 season hasn’t always been kind, however, with the three opening races marked by errors that weren’t of Rossi’s making.
“I’m not blaming him at all,” Andretti said. “He’s a real talent. He hasn’t gotten the results for whatever reason, but I know he can win a lot of races for us so we’re not giving up on him. That’s the best way to put it, and I don’t think he’s given up on us yet. He’s a friend and I’m rooting for him. I rate him highly and hopefully we work things out.”
As RACER wrote in March, if Rossi does not return to Andretti Autosport, it would be a surprise if the seven-time race winner doesn’t land with an AMSP or Chip Ganassi Racing. And since both sides are unwilling to commit to each other at this stage of the season, Andretti is actively monitoring the driver market if he or Rossi decide to part ways after seven years.
“In the meantime, we’re talking to people to see what is out there, and what’s better or if there’s something better than what we have,” he explained. “We’re always talking to people and so we’ll have ourselves covered one way or another.”
With Andretti Autosport’s 2019 Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew driving for the team in Formula E and its most recent Indy Lights title winner Kyle Kirkwood shining as an IndyCar rookie on a one-year contract with A.J. Foyt Racing, Andretti appears to have some quality options to place in the No. 27 Honda next season if Rossi does end up departing for AMSP or another rival team.
“Guys like Oliver and Kirkwood we’re definitely looking at, but then there are some others as well,” Andretti said. “But it’s still early so we’re not rushing ourselves to do anything at this moment.”