"I think it was time for a change" - Rossi

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"I think it was time for a change" - Rossi

IndyCar

"I think it was time for a change" - Rossi

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Alexander Rossi is looking forward to a reset when he calls time on a seven-year stint with Andretti Autosport at the end of the current IndyCar season and moves to Arrow McLaren SP.

“I’ve driven for Andretti Autosport for a long time,” he said. “Sometimes you need to change things, whether that’s on a personal side, a professional side or the both combined. I think it was time for a change.

“There were a lot of things that we accomplished that were very special, that I’ll have memories of forever. They essentially gave me a base and established me in IndyCar to have a future in the NTT IndyCar Series. I owe a lot to the organization.

“Ultimately for me it was time to do something different. I don’t think there’s a better pairing out there for who I am as a person and a competitor than Arrow McLaren SP.”

Rossi is leaving a team that has won the Indianapolis 500 six times and the IndyCar Series championship four times to join an operation that is yet to get on the scoreboard in either column. It’s a calculated risk that he says represents his faith in the progress the team has made over the past two seasons.

“What [Zak Brown, McLaren CEO and Taylor Kiel, AMSP team president] have accomplished in a short period of time speaks for itself,” Rossi said. “The result they had last year…a huge amount of respect for Pato [O’Ward, who finished third in the championship] obviously, but he’s still new to the championship; relatively young. The results he had were phenomenal.

“I think the inherent performance is there. It exists. If you look at what the team did at Indy this year — they were the second-strongest team. What Ganassi was able to do was phenomenal. We’ve all touched on that. I think Arrow McLaren SP was certainly the next best shot. This is a team that is going to be a championship challenger. They already were last year. They will be this year. I certainly think it will be the case going forward.”

Rossi made an early impact with Andretti in 2016 when he won the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie, and added another four wins over the next two years, culminating in a career-best finish of second in the championship in 2018. He recommitted himself to Andretti halfway through 2019 – reportedly turning down offers from Penske, among others – but after adding another two wins and finishing third in that year’s standings, he has been unable to maintain those sorts of results since.

Alexander Rossi celebrates in victory lane at the Indianapolis 500, May 29, 2016. Steve Swope/Motorsport Images

“Obviously in 2019 we were coming off a very successful 2018, beginning of 2019,” he said “That was the team I’d driven for; that’s where my relationships were. At the time [staying] was an easy decision. Ultimately, I don’t think this has met anyone’s expectations — myself, the team’s, Honda’s. I don’t think it’s necessarily a huge surprise for everyone.

“That being said, I think there have been scenarios that have been outside of our control, but that’s motorsports, life — just the way things go sometimes. Again, very grateful for the opportunities that I was given. Very grateful for the partnerships and relationships that I’ve developed with AutoNation and Honda; NAPA. I’m still going to be close with those people, those decision-makers. I’ve become friends with those guys. None of that’s going to change. We’re just going to be looking to beat their ass in ’23.”

The full picture of AMSP’s 2023 driver line-up remains unclear due to the looming end to Felix Rosenqvist’s current contract, but the one certainty is that Rossi will be going head-to-head with O’Ward, who recommitted his own future to AMSP just before the Indy 500.

“Pato is one of the guys that’s come on the scene in the past couple of years, someone that’s properly a championship contender, someone you have to beat every weekend,” Rossi said.

“From day one we’re going to push each other really hard. Naturally that’s just going to elevate the team to have that kind of dynamic. He’s someone that I’ve gotten to know a little bit over the past couple of years. We’ve had some jokes together. I don’t really know him that well. I look forward to getting to know him and obviously everyone at the team. I think there’s going to be a competitive drive inside the organization.”

From the team’s standpoint, Rossi’s arrival is the next logical step in the mission to shave off the rough edges and establish AMSP as a regular championship threat.

“It’s really a no-brainer for us,” said Kiel. “We’re trying to elevate on track, off track; bring in the best talent that we can.

“It’s been a goal of ours to expand to three entries. Bringing Alex onboard automatically makes that a contender. The goal for us is certainly not to detract from the other two [entries]. Bringing Alex in — the team we’re going to build around him — is very exciting for me. It gives us three great opportunities every week. We’re confident that Alex will help push our program forward with the experience and knowledge he has. It ticks all the boxes, in my opinion.”

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