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IndyCar Grand Prix of Indianapolis

O’Ward, Rossi impressed by McLaren’s “massive step forward”

Pato O’Ward and Alexander Rossi sounded less frustrated with missing out on victory in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis and more excited that the team excelled.

Patricio O'Ward, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Photo by: Brett Farmer / Motorsport Images

O’Ward and Rossi finished second and third while their teammate Felix Rosenqvist was fifth. For O’Ward it was a third runner-up finish in five races, while for Rossi it was the first podium finish since switching from Andretti Autosport at the end of last year.

“Super stoked for the team,” said O’Ward who finished 16 seconds behind race winner Alex Palou. “We put three cars in the top five. Freakin’ hard to do in this series with how competitive it is. Just stoked for everybody in the organization, for our #5 crew.

“We made our strategy really work, right? I just think today Palou and Ganassi were very, very strong, so we couldn't quite get them there in the end.

“Historically this hasn't been the best of tracks for us. So this is awesome to see just the massive step forward we've taken here in race pace. Super happy to see that.”

Rossi added: “Like Pato said, to get three cars in the top five is near on impossible these days. Arrow McLaren has done a phenomenal job all year. You can't talk about how challenging it is to add a car in the off-season. They've done it with relative apparent ease. There's a lot of work behind the scenes.

“Really proud to get the first podium for the team, the first one as part of Team Chevy. It was a good day. We've had a really strong pace on [race days], we just haven't gotten the results that we feel like we deserve. We're missing a little bit [in qualifying].

“The pieces are coming together. I've got an awesome team, awesome teammates around me.”

Despite Palou being the only driver in the top seven on the grid to start on alternate tires, O’Ward said he had no regrets over his team’s tire sequence over the course of the four-stint race, which went fresh primaries, used alternates, fresh primaries, fresh alternates.

“I was happy with my strategy,” he said. “I just think when we were in the second-to-last stint, I blew too much push to pass. I could have used some more to keep Palou behind us, which I think we might have been able to do.

“You got to pick your battles. I was like, ‘You know what? At this stage of the race. I think that was the defining moment of the race because a yellow never came out.’ If a yellow did come out, I would have been in very big trouble.

“I just played it safe, chose my battles cautiously. Super happy, content with the solid points that we got today.”

“I took longer to get by Lundgaard than what Alex did. I got stuck behind other guys a little bit longer; that’s where he made up the time. When he got out of the pits, I was held up by some lappers. That all just adds up to the amount of time you keep losing, especially in those crucial in- and out-laps.”

Rossi used his reds to charge from 10th on the grid to claim fourth by Lap 2, and was a top five runner and podium contender for the remainder of the race. Quizzed over whether qualifying is now his focus, he replied: “Yeah, it's a very different car than I'm used to. I just haven't quite found my happy spot for like the ultimate lap.

“It's close. It seems like we're permanently qualifying 10th, 11th or 12th. It's not a disaster. We're certainly much better in race pace, or have been so far this year. It's not the end of the world.

“We'll get there. It's competitive, and you can't be missing a 10th of a second. Ultimately that's what we're missing. We'll keep our heads down. A bit of a shift now for the next two weeks. Yeah, really looking forward to getting started on the oval.”

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