Column: Chaos inside Andretti Autosport as teammates fume

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LEXINGTON, Ohio — Michael Andretti wants Formula 1 to believe it should be the team waving the American flag in the most popular motorsport series in the world.

The collapse of his IndyCar Flagship Team at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course maybe her Netflix audition tape.

Andretti Autosport has been volatile all season, the first with F1’s Romain Grosjean and “Drive to Survive” and the last with Alexander Rossi, winner of the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar’s least amused driver.

Grosjean is new to the team – he replaced popular Andretti stalwart Ryan Hunter-Reay – and Andretti needs ‘The Phoenix’ and his star power in Andretti’s extensive multi-series lineup.

And Grosjean is legitimately a star. He was a star driver in the Netflix docudrama behind the scenes of F1 and an entire episode revolves around the near-fatal 2020 fire that ended his F1 career and brought him to the United States to race in IndyCar .

Rossi doesn’t like Grosjean.

It doesn’t matter because Grosjean doesn’t like Rossi either.

And it’s up to Andretti to handle the situation and keep his organization from embarrassing itself with a 60-year-old relic of a racetrack in the middle of Ohio.

Rossi decided long ago that this seventh season would be his last with Andretti, the owner who bet on the Californian when he left F1. He leaves for Arrow McLaren SP and Andretti already signed Kyle Kirkwood to replace him.

The smart play for Andretti would have been to immediately quell any tension on the roster.

After all, F1 is watching.

Andretti has working overtime trying to persuade F1 to expand its grid for a two-car effort from “Andretti Global”. A true American team, he said, would bring a new wealth of sponsorship to a rapidly growing series across North America.

Most current F1 teams think Andretti is delusional. They don’t care to return the Andretti name to F1 and most have already signed multi-million dollar deals with North American-based companies. At Charlotte Douglas International Airport on Monday, NASCAR’s transportation hub featured F1 driver Lando Norris in an advertisement for Tumi in the main shopping thoroughfare.

Adding two cars to put Andretti’s name on the grid is seen by the majority of F1 teams as nothing more than a dilution of their guaranteed earnings.

It’s up to Andretti to prove his worth to these goalkeepers at the club he so desperately wants to join. And while Mid-Ohio proved their organization packed all the action needed for a full “Drive to Survive” storyline, that couldn’t have been the look Andretti wants to scrutinize.

Rossi destroyed Grosjean and rookie Devlin DeFrancesco. Grosjean destroyed Colton Herta and challenged team orders to block traffic for Rossi. IndyCar called Grosjean and Rossi to avoidable contact penalties. Herta, 15th, was the highest placed Andretti car.

It was so ugly that’s how Andretti Autosport summed it up in its post-race statement on Sunday: “As the green fell, the drivers worked to advance through the field before a series of mishaps between teammates does not cost valuable lane positions.The scrum caused high tensions and reduced finishing results.

That’s an understatement.

Andretti was seething openly as his cars wrecked. He had a lively conversation with Rossi’s father in the open paddock and then a post-race meeting with his drivers.

When it was over, Grosjean said he always felt that Rossi is “an absolute idiot. Sorry.”

Rossi declined Monday to give details of the situation to The Associated Press. He made it clear he didn’t believe Grosjean was a good teammate and would never give Grosjean an inch on the track.

But he is adamant he still represents Andretti and that his job is still to try to win races.

What did Andretti have to say after the five-alarm Mid-Ohio debrief? He did not respond to a Monday request from the AP for comment.

Clearly Grosjean did himself few favors in his second season in IndyCar. He charmed his way through the series – just months after the 2020 F1 fire in Bahrain – and improved from outperformance with midfielder Dale Coyne Racing still looking for his first victory in his upgraded Andretti seat.

Grosjean has been involved in multiple on-track incidents since joining Andretti and he very rarely accepts any guilt. After him and Graham Rahal entangled in April at Barber,Rahal spread the word that most drivers were fed up with Grosjean’s act.

Then, nearly a month at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway RV park, where Grosjean prepared for his Indy 500 debut and his teammates were eager. participants in the annual pranks between drivers.

It didn’t feel personal when Herta and Rossi were part of a crew who ransacked Grosjean’s patio furniture and moved his scooter to the top of the Pagoda. And yet Herta looked slightly annoyed when he discovered his golf cart had been knocked over and all his oil drained while he was in a media session, there was no clear sign that Rahal could have included Grosjean’s own teammates in his popularity poll.

Come Sunday to Mid-Ohio, race winner Scott McLaughlin made it clear that the whole paddock knew Andretti was a storm waiting to break out.

“It’s been building all year,” McLaughlin said of the Andretti-on-Andretti crimes that happened behind the leaders all day.

In a way, Mid-Ohio showed that Andretti has all the juicy drama that has helped F1 expand its North American following. But the whole display – and the apparent months of internal buildup – has an amateurish look to it that hardly justifies F1 opening its doors to Andretti.

There is a problem inside the Andretti operation and every day it goes unresolved only hurts Andretti’s chances of being taken seriously in F1.

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