An offseason of waiting finally came to an end for Alexander Rossi.
The NTT INDYCAR SERIES’ two-day open test at The Thermal Club officially marked the start of Rossi’s on-track acclimation with his No. 7 Arrow McLaren Racing Chevrolet.
California native Rossi spent the past seven seasons with Andretti Autosport – his entire NTT INDYCAR SERIES career to date – but elected for a change and moved at the end of 2022 to the outfit known for its papaya liveries. The days ticked slowly, and the questions about getting comfortable with the team increased. On Thursday, he was finally unleashed on the 17-turn, 3.067-mile natural terrain road course with his new team.
“Yeah, we're getting there,” Rossi said. “It's a lot of new things. It's obviously a new team, but there are new people on the team, as well. I'm not the only new person. There are new computers. Everything is new, right?”
The newly expanded three-car outfit ran into “some bugs” on the initial day of testing but sorted through the issues and returned Friday morning to all three drivers – Felix Rosenqvist, Rossi and Pato O’Ward – ending up in the top 13 of the morning session.
The tricky part for the trio is being at a new circuit to the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, which limits any of the drivers being a benchmark for the team to follow and forces them to learn together.
“It's been very productive,” said Rossi, the 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner. “This morning was heads and shoulders better than how yesterday was going for us. I think we're getting settled in, and this afternoon should be another step better.
“Generally happy. The big thing is, everyone has kind of faced adversity and everyone has just kind of dealt with it. There's been no stress or panic. We're kind of taking it one step at a time, which is very encouraging.”
In addition to learning a new team, Rossi also is adjusting to a new engine manufacturer in Chevrolet. His seven previous seasons were spent with Honda.
“Yeah, they're certainly different,” he said. “I think it's very public knowledge that Team Chevy and the teams that had Chevy engines worked really hard in the offseason 2021 and 2022 to close the gap of what the Chevy drivers felt like they were missing compared to the others. I think that was obviously proven last year with winning the drivers’ and manufacturers’ championship.
“There are differences. There are some things that, me being so fresh out from the other side, I'm able to have a very clear black-and-white understanding of this is better, this is worse. Hopefully we can come out of here with a couple bullet points to continue and take forward going into St. Pete.”