INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - Alexander Rossi had more than enough rage to fuel a late challenge for an Indianapolis 500 win on Sunday but not enough horsepower to chase down an unflappable Simon Pagenaud.
Rossi pounded his steering wheel in frustration, shook his fist in anger and kept his foot pressed on the gas pedal in a breathtaking battle with Pagenaud over the final 13 laps that ended with the Frenchman getting in front with one to go and holding off the American.
Pagenaud’s clinically cool display was in stark contrast to a fired up Rossi, who was left exasperated as his pit crew wrestled to engage an uncooperative fuel hose that dropped him from first to 12th.
Returning to race he vented his anger on Oriol Servia, shaking his fist at the Spaniard when he would not give way despite being a lap down, the two incidents injecting a fury in Rossi that produced a combative and fearless display of driving rarely seen at the famed Brickyard.
“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 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.”
The winner of the 100th Indy 500 in 2016 was not nearly as understanding about his battle with Servia.
“I think it was one of the most disrespectful things I’ve ever seen in a race car, to be honest,” said Rossi.
“He’s a lap down and defending, putting me to the wall at 230 miles an hour. It’s unacceptable.
“It’s unacceptable for him, and it’s unacceptable that IndyCar allowed it to happen as long as they did.”
A five car pile up with 23 laps to run brought out a red flag setting up a mad dash to the finish with Pagenaud and Rossi swapping the lead over the final laps.
But when Pagenaud powered to the front entering the final lap Rossi had no answer as his Andretti Autosport Honda was unable to match the horsepower of the Team Penske Chevrolet.
“It sucks to come this close and really have nothing that we as a team could have done differently,” shrugged Rossi.
“We just didn’t have the straight-line speed. There’s not much we can do about that from my side inside the car.
“Unfortunately nothing else matters here but winning.
“This one will be hard to get over but at the end of the day, it’s a great showing.”
Editing by Greg Stutchbury