Rossi: “Benchmark” Palou “exceptional” in IndyCar races with high tyre degradation

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On a recent episode of ‘Off Track with Hinch and Rossi’, James Hinchcliffe and Alexander Rossi spoke about the extraordinary performance from Alex Palou at Detroit at the weekend.

The Spaniard took pole position by 0.3s at IndyCar’s newest venue on Saturday. By lap 22 in the race on Sunday, he had built up a whopping 10-second lead over Grosjean on the alternates as he suffered far less tyre degradation compared to his opponents who started on the same softer tyre.

Although Will Power tried his best with an alternative strategy and did take the lead at one stage, Palou ultimately prevailed in to extend his championship lead to 51 points over teammate Marcus Ericsson.

Rossi and Hinchcliffe were full of praise for the 2021 IndyCar champion. The Arrow McLaren driver even admitted at one point he thought Power was in the lead such was the dominance of the CGR driver.

Photo credit: Penske Entertainment | James Black

Rossi: “I feel like if we could just start in the top 6, top 4, we could challenge Palou who is the benchmark of the field right now. It’s pretty unbelievable.”

Hinchcliffe: “He’s on a roll. I assume you haven’t watched the race back but before all those yellows started falling, he was building one of those Palou-esque/Rossi-esque leads like he did at Indy GP and at Laguna [final race of 2022].

“It was like going to be another big winning margin. When Max [Verstappen] wins a race by 20 seconds, you’re like ‘yeah, okay, look at the massive advantage he has in car’. When someone in IndyCar does it, it’s like ‘how, wait, what’.”

Photo credit: Penske Entertainment | Matt Fraver

Rossi: “I knew that was the case because every single restart by turn 4 he was already gone. I was looking at Will [Power], Scott [Dixon] and Felix [Rosenqvist] — and I was like ‘so Will’s the leader?'”

Rossi went on to explain what makes Palou so good in races where tyre wear is a huge factor in the racing.

The 26-year-old Spaniard won by 30.3s in the finale at Laguna Seca last year at a venue where tyre degradation is massive in IndyCar. Drivers can make as many as four stops in that race.

Palou’s backed it up this year with commanding wins on the Indy road course and at Detroit five days ago.

“Anytime there is a race with high tyre degradation, Alex Palou rises to the occasion. He is incredibly smooth, precise and very easy on tyres,” Rossi explained.

“When there is a race without tyre degradation, there is guys that are faster, quite frankly. He’s good but he’s beatable.

“In a race where there is high tyre degradation, he’s exceptional.”