Andretti Autosport’s outputs in Sunday’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach could be re-opening wounds from a season ago.
Following a trio of top–seven results last month at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, misfortunes that plagued the team in a winless 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season returned. While the quartet were not back markers, opportunities were missed.
The biggest disappointments were suffered by Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi. RHR won at Long Beach in 2010 and appeared to be in a position to back up the result on Sunday. While running second, he slowed with six laps to go due to a mechanical issue, and finished 17th.
“We had a good showing for DHL and Honda today, but I don’t know what happened,” said Hunter-Reay. “It was something electrical. I tried cycling the car a few times and it didn’t fire.”
Rossi was also a challenger, only to grind to a halt on the front stretch on Lap 63 while in the top-five.
“I thought we had a really good shot at winning,” the 19th-place finisher said. “The pace of the car was really good, so it’s unfortunate.”
While bad breaks plagued it two front-runners, Marco Andretti and Takuma Sato were never contenders for reaching the top ten. A mechanical gremlin ended Andretti’s hopes during hid first pit stop and he finished 20th. Sato’s team elected to use an off-sequence pit strategy, yet hit engine trouble and wound up 18th.
Although, Andretti Autosport is not the first team to witness all of its team members finish 17th or worse in a Verizon IndyCar Series race, it does cause one to look back at a team’s weaknesses.
For instance, the pressure surrounding Marco Andretti has to be at an all-time high. While frustrations from team owner Michael Andretti have never been made public, but the results say otherwise. The third-generation driver has only two wins in 170 career IndyCar starts. The biggest negative has been a lack of aggression when in contention.
Ryan Hunter-Reay won the 2013 IndyCar championship, but bad timing has been a common enemy. Whether mechanically-influenced or via contact like the 100th Indianapolis 500, RHR has not been immune.
The same unlucky streak seems to be growing on Alexander Rossi also, who is becoming a greater threat for top ten finishes in his second IndyCar season. Although one mechanical failure is not necessarily the start of a mental barrier, it could over time.
Takuma Sato has been criticized for over-aggression. However, to a lesser extent, Sato is also a driver that can enter extended cold periods where impressive results have been limited. The difference between St. Pete and Long Beach seem to be a continuation of this roadblock.
A more competitive Honda package can aid some of the issues; unfortunately, not everything can be solved by the manufacturer. While Barber could quiet down all of the above concerns, another swing and miss will certainly increase the drama.
FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattEmbury
The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.