The biggest domino in the silly season was a complete afterthought after the season-opening race at St Petersburg. How does an Indianapolis 500 winner joining a new organization during the prime of his career fly under the radar in his first outing with the team? That is exactly what Alexander Rossi did this weekend, in what was a bitter sweet day for Arrow McLaren Racing.

Leading up to this weekend, one of the many storylines for the 2023 season revolved around Rossi, and the expectations with his new team. Could he return to his winning ways and get back to being a legitimate championship contender, or was he simply not as good as advertised? The answer may not be set in stone, but today's race was a clear indicator that Rossi is going to be a major factor in the title hunt this season.

Practice and qualifying were not particularly strong for Rossi, but he was just putting his toes into the water. In addition to getting to know new faces and the McLaren way of doing things, he is also just beginning to get a grip on the Chevrolet engine. That may not seem like a big hurdle from the outside, but it is a monumental adjustment for a driver that has only driven a Honda in his seven years in the series.

"I underestimated the size of the differences a little bit," Rossi said about the engines. "Driving a Honda for so long, and that being the only thing that I knew, you learn very quickly that Chevy and GM have very specific areas, even mundane sorts of things, where they’re highly focused."

Rossi started the race in 12th position, but was headed towards the front. One of his teammates, Felix Rosenqvist, was taken out in the first-lap mayhem. His other teammate, Pato O'Ward, had the victory in his grasp before a plenum event (engine misfire that leads to burning of the fuel in the plenum) cost him the race lead with just two laps remaining. The weekend was nearly a disaster for the team, but Rossi delivered an exceptional result.

Just missing out on the podium in his first outing with the team, Rossi was ecstatic to begin the season with a 4th place finish. "It was a day about maximizing what we had. We got lucky with some cars going out or making mistakes. The team did a really good job. I think we were just one second behind all weekend. But first time out with the guys and girls, these are the days you need when you don't quite have the ultimate pace. All in all, a really strong start, and we'll take this positive momentum to Texas."

Ironically, one of those organizations that had some cars going out was Andretti. Despite having three cars starting inside the top-five, each one suffered grave misfortune and crashed out of the race. Their four cars finished 15th, 18th, 20th, and 25th. Rossi has been a part of that misfortune for the last few years, but now is happy with having a drama-free weekend.

"Today was really only our fifth day of working together, so it’s only going to continue to evolve. I’m really proud of this organization and can’t wait to improve upon our weaknesses. This was a really good start to the season and we’re only going to get even stronger from here." That is a scary proposition for the rest of the paddock.