Alexander Rossi: Indy 500 defeat to Simon Pagenaud was inevitable

Alexander Rossi just didn’t have the horsepower to hold off Simon Pageanud in the Indianapolis 500.

In a battle of Chevrolet versus Honda in the closing laps of the Indianapolis 500, Simon Pagenaud simply out-muscled Alexander Rossi.

Driving his No. 22 Team Penske Chevrolet, Simon Pagenaud utilized the superior straight-line speed of his engine supplier to twice pass Alexander Rossi’s No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda within the final 13 laps.

Rossi overcame a late fueling mistake by his over-the-wall pit crew to take the lead within 10 laps to go but didn’t have the horsepower needed to hold off the pole sitter and 2016 NTT IndyCar Series champion.

The 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner called the outcome of their duel inevitable.

“We just didn’t have the straight-line speed,” Rossi said. “There’s not much we can do about that from my side inside the car. Obviously the 22 guys fully deserve it. They were on pole. He led probably 70 percent of the laps.

“Yeah, I mean, he was a deserving winner for sure. But that last yellow really hurt us because we were doing a lot better on fuel mileage than he was, so that was the first kind of nail in the proverbial coffin, and yeah, the second one was just — we didn’t have the speed out front. I mean, I was flat for the last 15 laps, and there’s not much more you can do.”

In fact, when asked if he wanted to immediately return to the track for a 10-lap rematch with Pagenaud, Rossi declined to even humor the idea.

“I mean, it would be the same result, so (I don’t want) that badly, to (go out there again) to be honest.”

The Chevrolets made more power on Sunday but the Hondas were more fuel efficient. Rossi was in a competent place to win the race on fuel mileage, but that was offset by the complication on pit road, specifically a broken fuel probe.

But the slow pit stop only dropped him to fifth, since he was already on pit road at the time Marcus Ericsson spun during his own pit stop, freezing the field. So ultimately, the issue didn’t cost him the race but it’s been a common theme of his recent appearances in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

“I mean, when you come here four times and three of the times you can’t get fuel in the car, I think you can understand why I was upset,” Rossi said. “It can’t happen. I mean, it wasn’t a human error, it was a mechanical problem, but still, it’s not something that we can have here. It’s the biggest race in the world, and 75 percent of the time we can’t get fuel in the race car.

“We need to address that for sure, but I think the whole 27 NAPA Andretti Honda boys did a great job of recovering. Rob Edwards, as always, is exceptional at being the kind of steady voice and very, very helpful for me in terms of kind of getting back to center and just focusing on getting back to where we needed to be. So ultimately it didn’t affect the end result. I think we’re lucky that it didn’t, but yeah, at the end of the day, they recovered nicely. Our last pit stop was mega, got us back into the lead before that final yellow came out.”

Again, the 27-year-old just didn’t have the horsepower to hold off Pagenaud, something he doesn’t hold against his team or the engine manufacturer.

“Honda is doing a great job and working their butts off to continue pushing this engine that’s been around for the better part of a decade to continually bring updates,” Rossi said. “I think the step that they took this year compared to last year was good. It got us a lot closer.

“Ultimately it wasn’t enough, but no, I think they’re doing everything they can, and until there’s a change in the regulations, it’s just everyone is kind of at their maximum. We are definitely, I think, stronger on some tracks, they’re stronger on others, and that’s apparently — the parity is kind of what makes this series what it is. You’re never going to have it completely go your way as much as you’d like to, but no, I don’t think there’s any fix necessary. They’re working hard every day to try and make it happen.”

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