Indy 500 champion Rossi seeking consistency

DETROIT — Winning the Indianapolis 500 is a highlight for any driver.

For Alexander Rossi, it was one of the few bright spots of his 2016 season.

“I mean, 2016, other than the month of May, was horrible for us,” Rossi said. “There’s a lot that we need to do different.”

Rossi was in Detroit on Wednesday night at a ceremony to receive his “Baby Borg” trophy for winning last year’s Indy 500. The victory was extra special since it was the 100th running of the race, but it was Rossi’s only win of the season. He managed only one other top-5 finish.

So while Wednesday was another chance to look back on a triumphant moment, Rossi is hoping for more consistency in 2017.

“There’s a lot of things that we’ve done already in this offseason to try and rectify that. We’ve had one test already so far, and it’s been very positive,” he said. “Hopefully we can have a stronger season from start to finish than we did last year.”

Owners Michael Andretti and Bryan Herta also were on hand to receive Baby Borgs. The trophies are smaller replicas of the Indy 500’s Borg-Warner Trophy.

“There’s not a lot of times when I’d be, like, happy to come to Detroit in the middle of January, but this is one time I’m really happy to come,” Andretti said.

Andretti is coming off his fourth Indy 500 victory as an owner, but nobody on the team was higher than 10th in the final driver standings last year, so Rossi’s desire for a stronger overall season in 2017 extends to Andretti’s entire operation.

“We’ve made a lot of great changes over the winter within the team that we feel is going to … make us a lot stronger,” Andretti said. “I’m really happy with our driver lineup.”

Takuma Sato is joining Andretti Autosport this season, part of a four-driver team that also includes Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti.

Rossi returned from Europe to his native U.S. when he had no full-time Formula One ride last season. His Indy 500 triumph as a rookie came as quite a surprise, and needless to say, it led to an outpouring of attention that hasn’t completely subsided yet.

“I told him it’s the gift that keeps on giving,” Herta said.

Rossi moved to Europe when he was 16, part of his pursuit of F1 stardom. After returning to the U.S. and winning at Indy, he wasn’t totally sure what he was supposed to do with the bottle of milk during the celebration.

Now he’s had a little more time to settle into his role as Indy 500 champion.

“It’s just different because this is a new environment for me,” Rossi said. “I’ve been in Europe for so long that a lot of the traditions and things that other drivers may be used to, I am not, or wasn’t, aware of. I guess that part of it’s been a learning experience.”

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