Rossi started the Grand Prix of Portland from the front row, and although he and Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Palou and Scott Dixon were among those sent to the back of the pack for missing the Turn 1/2 chicane on the opening lap, he kept pace with them and pressurised Palou during the final two restarts.
The 2018 championship runner-up eventually crossed the line within 1.5s of winner Palou and comfortably ahead of Dixon to score his first podium of the season.
“The pace of the car was good all weekend,” said Rossi.
“I think we gave it everything we could there on that last stint, and the red tyres [softer-compound Firestones] had a window of time where they were a little bit better, and then it was just tough with dirty air, and Alex didn’t make a mistake.
“It’s always going to be hard to just go and drive around the polesitter, but ultimately it was a good day for the team. Good in pit lane, great calls.”
Asked about Ganassi testing at Portland, and Andretti not doing so, Rossi said the effect had been exacerbated by the format of the race weekend.
“I think when you have a two-day event for really no reason and you only have one practice session and only an hour and a half between practice and qualifying, it makes it hard for the guys that didn’t test here,” he said.
“For us to get two cars in the Fast Six [Colton Herta was the other], we were really happy with that.
“Hopefully the advantage kind of comes back to us in Laguna [where both Andretti and Ganassi have tested] and we can have a little bit of upper hand coming out of the box there.
Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Alexander Rossi, Andretti Autosport Honda, Scott Dixon, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda celebrate on the podium
Photo by: Phillip Abbott / Motorsport Images
“But ultimately I think the team has been doing a good job as of late, and we’ve just got to keep pushing forward.
“We came out of the summer break with some solutions and identified some issues, and that’s been a positive and kind of carried forward.
“We’ll do everything we can [in the last two races]. We’ve got nothing to lose in these last two, so we’ll try our best to take some points away from those guys and see what we can get.”
Rossi, who dropped his right-side wheels in the dirt while half a second behind Palou in the closing stages, said he doesn’t ultimately think that made a difference to the outcome of the Portland GP.
“It was just some dirty air, and we had some understeer in that corner in particular,” he explained.
“From there we lost eight-tenths and kind of came back at it, but ultimately unless the guy in front of you makes a mistake… We were even on Push-to-Pass and using it at the same time.
“That’s just the way it goes. We were trying everything to put him under pressure and see if we could get him to lock up his fronts, but ultimately he’s the championship leader for a reason and drove a great race, and you’ve just got to accept second sometimes.”
Rossi said that, like Palou, he didn’t understand the penalty from Lap 1 when he was shuffled to the back by Race control, saying he was “upset” when informed over the radio.
“But yeah, it all worked out in the end,” he said. “The guys that started 1-2-3 finished 1-2-3, so you can’t complain about it too much.”