Rossi happy to receive positive and negative comments in 2018

This year’s IndyCar Series runner-up Alexander Rossi says his rise in profile created both good and bad comment but that he was grateful for both.

Rossi happy to receive positive and negative comments in 2018

Rossi scored three wins this past season and spearheaded Andretti Autosport’s revival as a title contender. However, he faced criticism from some media and fans for his controversial clashes with Robert Wickens in both St. Petersburg and in Road America. He also came under attack after the second race at Detroit, for (1) making an error under pressure that dropped him from the lead down to 11th, and (2) making a comment on TV that some interpreted as a failure to admit his mistake.

On the other hand, Rossi was also hailed as a hero for his storming comeback drive from a lap down at Phoenix to finish third, and his charging drive in the Indy 500, where he went from 32nd on the grid to grab fourth after some brave outside passes on restarts. He was also praised at Gateway for both his stunning high-speed save as he tried to defend from Will Power, and for his fuel saving that allowed him to jump Dixon for second by avoiding a final splash-n-dash pitstop.

“I don’t think my popularity went up and down,” Rossi told Motorsport.com. “I just think there was more talk – some of it for good reasons, some of it for bad.

“Negatives were St. Pete, Detroit, Road America – moments where there was a controversy over whether what I did was right or wrong. But at the end of the day, I had people talking about what I’m doing and that’s a good situation, I think. If there are some who didn’t like it, hopefully there were just as many who did like it.”

Rossi, who won his sixth start in the IndyCar Series – the 2016 Indianapolis 500 – had to wait more than a year for his second victory, September 2017’s race at Watkins Glen. Although the triumph helped him finish seventh in that year’s points race, it was this year when Rossi became a true championship contender, someone expected to be near the front of every race, fighting with Dixon, the Penskes of Power and Josef Newgarden, and also Wickens and Hunter-Reay.

“I think that sense of expectation and that rise in profile is a good thing,” said Rossi, “especially compared with where I was in 2016 before the Month of May. Our cars weren’t great back then so we weren’t achieving much in the races, not by the team’s usual standards, and then off track, I think people may have had a certain impression of me without knowing me. I hope people now know I’m committed to IndyCar and I intend to be here for a long time. So comparing early 2016 to where we are now, it’s very different, a positive shift.”

Rossi said he tries to remain ambivalent about the positive and negative commentaries on websites and in magazines and also the good and bad comments on social media, using the most successful athlete in Olympics history as his guide.

“I’m not going to let the negative comments hurt my performance,” said Rossi. “One of the ideas I stole from Michael Phelps a while ago was that thing where any negative story written about him he would print and put in his closet and use it as motivation. But equally I’m not going to start believing all the praise, either. That can hurt your performance too.

“I think the one exception where I suppose I did get a little annoyed was Detroit. I’d made a racing mistake so I was pissed at myself already, and then people misinterpreted what I said on TV afterward. They thought I wasn’t owning the error or I was blaming the team, which wasn’t the case.

“Ultimately you can’t dwell on those things or allow yourself to care too much about what people say. And even when you do, the important thing is to not let it affect your performance in a negative way. All you can do is your best, and then learn from your mistakes. That’s what I think any athlete tries to do.”

Check out the famous Autosport Top 50 Drivers of the Year, to be revealed from this Sunday through to next Thursday. Where will Alexander Rossi rank, and how does the IndyCar championship runner-up assess his and Andretti Autosport's title-contending season?

Pocono 2018 winner Alexander Rossi, Andretti Autosport Honda, celebrates with runner-up Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet, and Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Pocono 2018 winner Alexander Rossi, Andretti Autosport Honda, celebrates with runner-up Will Power, Team Penske Chevrolet, and Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.

Photo by: Phillip Abbott / LAT Images

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Alexander Rossi
Teams Andretti Autosport
Author David Malsher-Lopez
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