Alexander Rossi and Takuma Sato remain at odds over who caused the Lap 1 pile-up at Pocono after the former initially described his fellow Indianapolis 500 winner’s driving as ‘disgraceful’.
Five cars were taken out on the opening lap of the race when Sato’s Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing entry and the Andretti Autosport cars of Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay came together on the run to Turn 2.
Rossi had made a poor start from the front row when Hunter-Reay drew up on his inside and Sato on the outside, before the Japanese driver appeared to come down the race track.
— NTT IndyCar Series (@IndyCar) August 18, 2019
While Rossi eventually got back on track in a patched-up #27 Honda, he could only get himself classified 18th at the finish and his deficit to series leader Josef Newgarden expanded from 16 to 35 points.
Speaking on the NBC Sports Network after leaving the circuit medical centre, Rossi said: “Obviously I didn’t get a good start, and that’s on me, but we were three-wide with Ryan on the inside, I was in the middle with Takuma on the outside.
“I can’t even believe to understand after last year how Takuma thinks any sort of driving like that is acceptable,” he continued, in reference to Robert Wickens’ horror crash at the same circuit last year.
“To turn across two cars at that speed at that corner, in a 500-mile race is disgraceful and upsetting. It might have cost me this championship.”
Hunter-Reay had a similar view to his team-mate.
“My view is that it was ridiculous,” he declared.
“I thank God everyone is alright, I thought we learned our lesson from last year. Lap 1 of a 500-mile race…
“From my perspective, I had a nice, clean run on Rossi, I was almost three quarters of the way alongside, and all of sudden, out of nowhere, I’m backwards and I’m seeing the rest of the field coming as I’m backing into it.
“Then I saw Felix (Rosenqvist) go up into the fence.”
Sato subsequently took to Twitter to claim that it was in fact Rossi who had set off the incident by moving up towards his #30 Honda.
“I feel I need to say a word,” he wrote.
“I’m sorry I was involved with @AlexanderRossi for the championship.
“Looks like he was squeezed both Ryan and I, and if you reference seams, Alex clearly moved up. We all racing very close and unfortunately we made contact.”
I feel I need to say a word. I’m sorry I was involved with @AlexanderRossi for the championship. Looks like he was squeezed both Ryan and I, and if you reference seams, Alex clearly moved up. We all racing very close and unfortunately we made contact. pic.twitter.com/falLL7tf49
— Takuma Sato (@TakumaSatoRacer) August 18, 2019
Rossi hit back, suggesting that Sato had turned left in a bid to get into the slipstream of Scott Dixon.
“I think you’ll find that if you watch the video, it was you moving down trying to get ole Scotty D’s tow which caused this whole situation. #TryAgain,” he responded.
— Alexander Rossi (@AlexanderRossi) August 18, 2019
Sato then tweeted the onboard footage from his car which he says proves that he held his line.
“I didn’t mean I was blaming Alex at all,” he explained.
“I just said the facts and I apologized for the situation on my previous tweet.
“Now I show you this as well that I just drove straight.”
I didn’t mean I was blaming Alex at all. I just said the facts and I apologized for the situation on my previous tweet. Now I show you this as well that I just drove straight. pic.twitter.com/Md0U71S8y1
— Takuma Sato (@TakumaSatoRacer) August 19, 2019
Earlier, NBC Sports commentator and former IndyCar hard man Paul Tracy called for Sato to serve a suspension for the crash.
“My thoughts and my opinion (on) that accident after what happened last year, Sato needs a hard look at a suspension or something,” he said during the telecast.
“I’ve been suspended for something very minimal and I’ve had to sit out (a race), and I completely agreed with what Rossi said.”
“How many times do we have to go through the same situation before we can all accept that an IndyCar should not race at Pocono?” he posed.
“It’s just a toxic relationship and maybe it’s time to consider a divorce.
“I’m very relieved that everyone is okay from that scary crash.”
How many times do we have to go through the same situation before we can all accept that an IndyCar should not race at Pocono. It’s just a toxic relationship and maybe it’s time to consider a divorce. I’m very relieved (to my knowledge) that everyone is okay from that scary crash
— Robert Wickens (@robertwickens) August 18, 2019
Felix Rosenqvist, whose Chip Ganassi Racing Honda rode along the wall having hit Sato’s out-of-control car, also escaped serious injury, as did the other driver caught up in the crash, James Hinchcliffe.
Will Power won what was ultimately a shortened race due to lightning and the threat of rain, his first victory of the season.