Andretti Autosport is looking to a test day at Iowa Speedway on Thursday as a chance for the team to regroup after a turbulent Mid-Ohio IndyCar race that was marred by four incidents of contact between teammates.
Temperatures among some of the team’s drivers are still lowering after the clashes, and Andretti Autosport COO Rob Edwards believes the test comes at a perfect time to allow everyone a chance to reset ahead of next weekend’s trip to Toronto.
“We’re testing at Iowa tomorrow, so everybody will be in the same place at the same time,” Edwards told RACER. “It’s good that there’s a little bit of time between Mid-Ohio and having everyone in competition at the racetrack again, but I also think that if no one saw each other for 10 days, things could fester. So it’s good that the team’s at Iowa testing tomorrow, and important that all four drivers work together at the test to make sure that we’re as well-prepared as can be for when we return Iowa. It’s a balance, and hopefully over the course of the next week or 10 days we’ll strike that balance.”
The process of getting the team’s four drivers back onto the same page began as soon as they returned to the transporter after Sunday’s race. Edwards said that while there’s merit to allowing the drivers to cool down and reflect on what happened, there was also a need for an immediate response within the organization.
“In the moment it’s important to make the point that what just happened isn’t acceptable and isn’t the way we operate, and I think there’s a certain amount that it makes sense to address in the moment,” he said.
“Beyond that, there’s benefits in walking away and looking at tape and reviewing the incidents and giving them context, as well. But in view of how Sunday went it was important that Michael [Andretti] got all four drivers together. Some of them were victims and some of them were maybe causation of incidents, but it was important that all of them got the same message at the same time, and the reminder that this isn’t what’s expected, this isn’t how we operate, and it will be different going forward.
“Michael got the message through. No question about that one! They were all very quiet. At the end of the day, it wasn’t really a debate. What Michael had to say was a statement of fact, and there wasn’t really reason for any debate or anything beyond that.”
Andretti has followed up with one-on-one conversations with all four drivers in the days since. Going forward, Edwards believes that there is not a fundamental team problem that needs to be addressed, but rather specific personality conflicts — widely understood to be between Alexander Rossi and Romain Grosjean — that were already being monitored prior to Mid-Ohio, and will continued to be managed over the balance of the current season before Rossi departs for Arrow McLaren SP.
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“It’s not like it’s a team-wide issue,” Edwards said. “All four engineers work well together, particularly Olivier [Boisson] on Romain’s car and Jeremy [Milless] on Alex’s car. All four chief mechanics and crews get on together very well. The issues are very specific to what went on at the racetrack, and probably in reality have been bubbling between certain individuals before that that came to the fore. But there are not team-wide issues. There are ‘personality issues,’ I guess I would term them, that needed to be addressed, and have been addressed.
“After every event there’s a review of what happened at that event, and that can be nuts and bolts, or it can be how things are working between different members of the team and so on. Depending upon the event and what’s going on, there are conversations across the board. I think there were a combination of circumstances at Mid-Ohio that brought things to the fore. If there are tensions, there are certain circumstances where everyone is going to keep them under control, and circumstances where maybe they are not under control quite so well. As disappointing and unacceptable as what happened on Sunday was, it’s a good case of resetting for the rest of the year and I’m sure everyone will be better for the fact that, OK, we’ve hit the reset and now we’re moving on.”