Alexander Rossi

There was nothing flashy about Alexander Rossi’s performance March 5 in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg presented by RP Funding, but it certainly provided a glimpse of early promise to the 2023 season.

The season-opening round of the NTT INDYCAR SERIES marked Rossi’s debut with Arrow McLaren, switching after seven years at Andretti Autosport. Driving the team’s No. 7 Chevrolet, Rossi started 12th and methodically marched through the field, dodging the surrounding carnage of contact that ultimately retired 10 of 27 drivers and brought out five cautions. In the end, he managed to collect a fourth-place finish.

It was a result that didn’t look as promising for the Californian on the first session of the race weekend, as he finished a less-than-spectacular 21st in the opening practice. However, a strong effort helped the group rebound in the second practice Friday, as Rossi ended up ninth. And following the 100-lap bout around the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit on March 5, Rossi acknowledged the progress.

“Yeah, I think, in theory, we should only get stronger from here,” said Rossi, 31. “We're still a very new group working together. I think the effort all weekend from where we started on Friday was really big to recover from a difficult start. Ultimately, we were one session behind all weekend.

“The car was nice to drive; it was just missing a little bit of that ultimate balance for that little bit of extra lap time. But, again, it's days like (Sunday) where you got to just capitalize on the attrition and the chaos, and I think we're only going to get stronger from here.”

The ability for the Arrow McLaren team to change its fortunes over the course of the race weekend wasn’t unexpected to Rossi. While he was part of many of those moments during his time at Andretti Autosport, it’s likely a significant reason Arrow McLaren was all the more attractive when the 2016 Indianapolis 500 champion sought a fresh start.

“I don't think anything's really surprised me,” Rossi said. “I think it's just there's a lot of ability to rectify problems quickly. That's part of the reason why they've been so strong over the years. Even if you don't roll off quite where you expect, they have the ability to recover pretty quickly, and I think that was on display for us (last) weekend.

“We went from being pretty much the worst car on Friday to being competitive and in with a shot in qualifying to just keeping our nose clean and be in the top five.”