Rossi expects “very physical” race at St. Pete

David Malsher-Lopez
·3 min read

Rossi qualified his Andretti Autosport-Honda on the front row for the first time this season, but the seven-time race winner and five-time polesitter is coming off a streak of four straight podium finishes.

Asked about the effect of IndyCar’s 2020-mandated aeroscreen in its first race on a street course, Rossi said the effect on vision was negligible but the lack of airflow to the cockpit was a bigger factor. Forecast for tomorrow at the 1.8-mile street and runway course suggests 85degF and high humidity (and 50 percent chance of rain).

“Quite honestly, the visibility has been great,” said Rossi. “From that standpoint I haven't even really noticed it… It changes a little bit about what you're looking for from the car, it's a little bit harder to see the tight stuff, the change of direction is a little bit slower.

“Really the biggest issue – if you call it an issue – is just the heat. It's hot. I think we've all kind of touched on this topic throughout the year. This was always going to be one of the bigger tests. It's usually a very hot race.

“The street courses are probably the most physically demanding just because they're so bumpy, low grip. You're fighting the car a lot more than you would on a permanent course. And they're slower, so not as much forced air coming in – an area we need to improve on.

“You don't get the cooling that you used to. It will be interesting tomorrow to see how guys fare. I think everyone is kind of managing it right now.

“It's hot, but you're only doing six, seven laps at a time. It will be interesting to discuss it after a 100-lap race tomorrow in some of the worst conditions – probably 85 degrees, direct sunlight, high humidity, street course. All the factors line up!

Yeah, it's going to be very physical. I guess I'll have a better answer to how it actually is come tomorrow afternoon. Hopefully it's not too bad.

Rossi said he would be aiming to beat Team Penske-Chevrolet’s pole winner Will Power into the first corner because controlling the pace “makes your life simpler”.

“For sure, we're going to try,” said the former Formula 1 driver. “Whether it's lap one or into one or whenever, we're going to try to get it done.

“Regardless of who it is, clean air in these cars is hugely important. It just makes everything easier. The pace is higher. It's easier on the tires. Makes your life simpler.

“That will be our goal. Our car on blacks [Firestone primary tires] is incredibly strong, probably stronger than anyone else out there, aside from maybe the #88 car [teammate Colton Herta, who qualified third but was the fastest car on primaries].

“We'll see how it goes. We're definitely going to try to get the lead early and manage the race from there.”