US driver Rossi says F1 debut ‘pretty special’

SINGAPORE (AP) A slow start and a broken radio were not enough to spoil the Formula One race debut of American driver Alex Rossi on Sunday, as he completed the full distance of the Singapore Grand Prix.

Rossi, who is the first American to race in F1 since 2007, was competing for the small-budget Manor team which was never going to win the race. He at least had the satisfaction of taking 14th place ahead of teammate Will Stevens.

”Today has been pretty special,” the 23-year-old Californian said. ”All the hard work to get here finally paid off and it was a fantastic feeling to be racing on the streets of Singapore.”

Rossi was slow off the line at the start, exposing his inexperience, but had managed to pass Stevens by turn five on the opening lap.

He held onto that advantage despite losing radio contact with the team – a major setback for a young driver needing advice on settings and strategy.

The radio silence meant he got no instruction from the team about when to unlap himself when the safety-car emerged for the second time, so he was not able to get clear of the field.

”Despite that, we managed everything well and I’m very appreciative of all the effort put in by the team,” Rossi said.

His performances earned the approval of team principal John Booth who said the American ”delivered a solid and confident performance.”

Rossi is on a short-term contract that will see him race in five of the last seven races of the season, while juggling that with his commitments in the GP2 series where he is second in the standings.

He is hoping the exposure, and the possible attraction of sponsors to an American driver, will help him land a full-time drive next season – perhaps with Manor or the new team run by Gene Haas, which will enter the sport next season.