Scott McLaughlin’s victory in Mid-Ohio, watched by his mother and father from the stands, was undoubtedly special. So was Will Power’s indomitable will as he reclaimed third place after crashing last on the opening lap.
But those positive stories were overshadowed by some truly awful weekends for two of the series’ top teams.
Every IndyCar fan and watcher has had time to watch, digest, analyze and form an opinion on the soap opera that was Andretti Autosport’s mutinous collapse.
There’s the initial contact between Romain Grosjean and Alexander Rossi at the tricky Keyhole bend, which preceded the much tougher clash that sent Rossi mowing through the gravel and a furious Grosjean into the tire barriers. Also remember that Grosjean and Rossi had a minor collision just before another safety car restart.
Then Grosjean tagged Colton Herta from behind, sending Herta spinning – after the American driver’s run had already been jeopardized when his team failed to get him back to the pits before a warning flag went off. be waved for Tatiana Calderón’s stuck car. Moments later, Rossi collided with rookie teammate Devlin DeFrancesco, who had driven the cleanest and least self-assured race of the Andretti quartet, before the incident.
And of course there is the nuclear fallout after the race. Grosjean calls Rossi an “absolute idiot”, before being taken away by a team representative. Michael Andretti himself chasing Rossi via scooter before a verbal confrontation with Alexander’s father, Pieter Rossi.
If anything, it drew more onlookers to watch the smoking crater that was left behind. McLaughlin what was on everyone’s mind after the race: “It’s been building all year,” regarding the Andretti mutiny. The acrimony between Grosjean and soon-to-depart Rossi is no longer a hidden affair, and she has claimed Herta and DeFrancesco as collateral.
Before Calderón’s car stopped at the fourth corner on lap 53, Herta was third, Rossi and Grosjean ninth and tenth. Herta would finish as the team’s best driver in 15th, DeFrancesco 17th, Rossi 19th and Grosjean 21st.
It’s not hard to conclude that Andretti Autosport’s campaign has been a disappointment compared to pre-season expectations. Even more so when you consider that the organization has drawn up a plan to race in Formula 1 and is scrambling to break into the closed shop of the sport of 10 franchise teams against resistance from existing competitors.
But, honestly or not, people will look at what’s happened to Andretti’s fleet and come to the conclusion that this is an already overworked team in the IndyCar ranks, failing not to produce the results worthy of a member of the sport. the traditional “big three”.
That’s before getting into the dilemma of Herta himself, touted as the biggest potential F1 hopeful to come out of America since Rossi seven years ago. He is tenth in the championship, more than 100 points behind Marcus Ericsson.
Herta must now complete their 2022 season perfectly just to crack the top five in the standings and achieve the bare minimum of 40 superlicence points to qualify for a place in Formula 1. That would be a far cry from the likes of Jacques Villeneuve, Juan Pablo Montoya , Cristiano da Matta and Sebastien Bourdais punching their tickets from IndyCar to F1 with dominant and winning seasons on their resumes.
Andretti Autosport will now look to the next eight races of the season to avoid their first winless campaign as a four-car team since 2009. And with that, McLaren CEO Zak Brown has surely prepared a bouquet of flowers and a beautiful basket of adorable gifts for her colleague Michael Andretti.
Because if it weren’t for this disaster making headlines and gossip, there would be more attention on the other smoking crater right next to the blast radius of Andretti’s nuclear meltdown: a day when a victory and two cars on the podium seemed assured for McLaren SP, the day ended with a double retirement of drivers Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist.
Rosenqvist’s demise was quick and painless, as he dropped out of third place with his car blowing smoke until it came to a halt at turn four. But that prematurely ended a race that promised at least a podium – if not a win, given that he was starting the race on harder primary tyres.
It’s a result Rosenqvist could have desperately used to justify his stay at McLaren SP for a third season. Yes, the Swedish driver is signed to race for McLaren in a role to be determined next year, but the ambiguity of it all suggests – no, shouting – that they see Rosenqvist as a driver they will reluctantly decide to bring it back to IndyCar next year if they can’t sign another free agent instead.
Pato O’Ward, who has his own F1 ties and ambitions after signing a new long-term contract extension two days before the Indianapolis 500, had a great opportunity to win from pole and recover from a distance hitting Ericsson, Power, and Josef Newgarden at the top of the table. If Andretti Autosport fails to live up to its reputation as a “big three” team, then McLaren SP is best equipped to take its place behind Team Penske and Chip Ganassi Racing – in terms of resources and, importantly, results.
But thanks to a fuel delivery problem that started just before O’Ward’s first pit stop, and escalated until his car came to a halt on the pit exit after 53 laps, the team ace ended up with tiny points and a 24th place finish, to go with 27th (and last) for Rosenqvist.
Instead of winning at Mid-Ohio and climbing to third or even second in the standings with eight races remaining, O’Ward fell from fourth to fifth in the table and is now 65 points behind Ericsson after two consecutive retirements due to mechanical failures. Rosenqvist clings to a spot in the top ten of the leaderboard.
This massive failure was not self-inflicted, but it’s safe to say that with Andretti Autosport’s season nearly lost, McLaren SP may have had a bigger and more damaging disaster on its hands at Mid-Ohio which could prove to be the difference between O’Ward being presented the Astor Challenge Cup as series champion at Laguna Seca or not, and the difference between Rosenqvist partnering with O’Ward and Rossi in IndyCar the year next, or returning to Formula E – where, ironically, he could still battle Andretti Autosport.
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