After the pair made contact on-track for the second time this season in yesterday’s 2018 KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America, Robert Wickens has stated that Alexander Rossi need’s to “sit down and rethink” the way he approaches some situations. Wickens was on the outside of Rossi on lap one of the race when the Andretti Autosport driver edged him out onto the grass, causing Robert to lose multiple positions. A similar incident with Rossi and Takuma Sato later in the race.
Rossi and Wickens started nose-to-tail at Road America after qualifying in fourth and fifth respectively. After a decent start, Wickens tried to edge his way by Rossi, going to the outside of him on the run into the left-hander of turn six. Wickens left room on the inside for Rossi, who then proceeded to edge the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver off of the track.
Wickens was forced to take to the grass, which would cost him three positions and leave him fuming. After the race, in an interview with IndyStar, Robert stated that Rossi was starting to become a “common denominator” in a fair few incidents out on the race track.
“It’s just frustrating,” Wickens said after the race yesterday, “The kid is so fast. … I think he needs to concede from time to time. He races every corner like it’s the last lap. That’s the way he’s been. That’s the way he’s always been, even when he was in Europe. Honestly, it’s probably what got him to IndyCar. He’s a ruthless guy.
“I thought I gave him enough space for us both to go through the corner. But he releases the brake to try and get ahead, and he takes the corner too quick and the guy’s in the side of you. He did the identical thing with Sato. … There’s always a common denominator with these incidents, and it’s always Alexander Rossi.”
Of course, it is not the first time that Wickens and Rossi have clashed this season. In the season-opening race of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series, the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Wickens had been on course to take a sensational win in his first race, when a collision with Rossi on the final restart of the race saw Wickens end up in the barrier whilst Rossi managed to come home on the podium.
Wickens told IndyStar yesterday that the pair’s numerous incidents have led him to believe that Rossi needs to re-evaluate the way he races. He also went on to say that he was confused as to why IndyCar officials chose not to act on the incident, comparing the series to his former stomping ground of DTM, where drivers would be penalised for pushing others off of the circuit:
“The thing with Alex is he puts himself in situations where if the other person doesn’t give, they’re going to crash,” Wickens said, “He’s just that kind of guy. If you race him different you’re just going to crash. I mean, that’s just the way I look at it. I’m not trying to beat on the kid. It’s just every now and then you have to use some judgement. I mean think of how many points he’s thrown away this year. At one point, he should sit down and rethink how he’s approaching the problem.”
“Where I come from in touring cars – when there’s contact, when there’s banging in racing and it’s all exciting – if you push another car off the track, you had to concede the position,” Wickens added. “And if you didn’t, you got a drive-through penalty. It’s clear as day. It’s just weird in an open-wheel car, if there’s contact that forces a car off, or in the first instance into a spin and out of the race, there’s no action. It’s weird. But I guess it’s not my place.”
The only consolation for Wickens came with the fact that Alexander would go on to suffer a puncture. A lengthy pit-stop for repairs would see Rossi tumble down the order to an eventual finish of sixteenth-place, whilst Wickens finished in fifth place. To that, Robert only had one comment:
“Karma’s a *****.”
Wickens was not the only driver to have been on the receiving end of Rossi’s robust racing. Like Wickens, Sato went to the outside of Rossi at turn five and remained there into turn six. Once again, Rossi would edge Sato out to the outside of the circuit, with Takuma having to take to the run-off area in his #30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda as a result.
Post-race, Sato would echo Wickens’ sentiments, stating that he was not happy with the way Rossi raced him and that he believes that the stewards should have penalised Alexander for the incident:
“It was sad,” Sato said to IndyStar, “It’s a sad scene in such a high professional race car sport. You don’t want to see the young guys bumping each other. I’m totally fine with the side-by-side racing, but he did the exact the same thing to Wickens. He pushed him off.
“I mean, what are we doing? I’m going to have a word with him. Honestly, the stewards should have (penalized him). … It’s disappointing. I know he’s fast, but what the [heck]?! … I respect him, but he tends to do that. He’s super aggressive. Unnecessarily, you know?”
The next race of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series takes place in just under two weeks time. The 2018 Iowa Corn 300 at Iowa Speedway will be run on Sunday, July 8.