Rossi responds to criticism from Wickens: “I really feel that I do respect everyone”

by Jordan Groves

Verizon IndyCar Series competitor Alexander Rossi has responded to criticism from his rivals after yesterday’s KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America. Alexander was involved in two separate incidents with Robert Wickens and Takuma Sato, with both drivers stating that Rossi should have been penalized.

The first incident in yesterday’s race came right at the start. On lap one, Wickens was trying to pass Rossi around the outside at turn six. Rossi slowly edged Wickens off of the track on the outside of the course, with Robert having to take to the grass. The excursion cost Wickens three positions, but race control ruled that nothing had taken place that necessitated a penalty.

Later on in the race, Takuma Sato caught up to the back of Rossi and decided to have a go at passing him. He, like Wickens, went to the outside of Rossi at turn five, with the pair remaining side-by-side into turn six. Once again, Rossi would edge Sato off-track, with Sato also being forced to take to the run-off area as a result. The stewards would again have a look at the incident but would repeat that Rossi had done nothing wrong and that no penalty would be given.

Rossi’s hard defending would later be undone when his #27 Andretti Autosport Honda developed a puncture, with Alexander being forced to make a lengthy pit-stop for repairs. He would ultimately finish the race in sixteenth place, whilst Sato and Wickens came home in fourth and fifth respectively.

After the race, both Wickens and Sato would criticise the way that Rossi had raced them. Wickens, who previously had an incident with Rossi back at the season-opening race, the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, stated yesterday that “There’s always a common denominator with these incidents, and it’s always Alexander Rossi.”

The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver would later go on to tell IndyStar that he believed Rossi “should sit down and rethink how he’s approaching the problem”, before going on to say that Rossi’s later puncture was an example of “karma“.

Sato, too, echoed the statements of Wickens, adding that he was “going to have a word” with Rossi about the incident. He also stated that he was “totally fine with the side-by-side racing”, but he did not want to see drivers “bumping each other” in IndyCar.

Credit: Chris Owens / Courtesy of IndyCar

In response to the post-race criticism from Wickens and Sato, Rossi told IndyStar that he believed had done nothing wrong in the race at Road America, stating “I’m here to win races and win a championship. This isn’t a friend competition.”

“You have to have respect for each other. I’m completely on the same page as everyone on that,” Rossi said after the race. “And I really feel that I do respect everyone. If you look at the start of today, I had a huge run on Ryan [Hunter-Reay]. I could have thrown it at the inside of Turn 1, but it was a low-percentage move, and I backed out.  

“I don’t think other than the St. Pete thing, there’s ever been an instance where anything I’ve done caused someone to not finish a race or to have a damaged race car. I think that’s one of the characteristics that I’m very good at and think I’ve proven that. So I don’t know where that’s come from, but at the same time, on the race track, I’m not really bothered by what people think because I’m here to win races and win a championship, This isn’t a friend competition. This isn’t a buddy-buddy type of thing for me. I’m happy to be friends with them off the track and when we take our helmets off. But once the race starts, man, unless you are a teammate of mine, I’m not here to do anyone any favours.”

Rossi would go on to further defend his actions, saying that neither driver should have been surprised at the outcome of their battles as he had been fully on the inside of them heading into the corner.

“If you’re leaving a driver a door, an entire door and not defending the corner at all, then I don’t understand where their surprise is that I’m going to go for that,” Rossi said. “I [was] fully alongside both them going into Turn 6. It wasn’t a late lunge …  I was legitimately alongside them, and they continued to try and hang it on the outside. Personally, I don’t really care about your feelings or what you kind of would want me to do. Of course, you’d want me to leave you an entire lane on the corner entry because that would make your life easier. But this isn’t a popularity contest or a buddy-buddy thing.

“We’re here to win races, right? So if you’re going to hang the car on the outside of a corner, that’s fine. Sometimes it will work out, and other times it’s not going to, but it’s not the guy on the inside’s responsibility to give you a lane on the exit.”

It does not sound like Rossi is going to be changing his driving style any time soon. He will be hoping that he can bounce back from a disappointing last few races in the next round of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series. The Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway will take place on Sunday, July 8.

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