American driver looks to help rally US to F1
The first American driver on the Formula One grid in five years
is hoping for a solid performance at the Spanish Grand Prix.
Caterham test driver and California native Alexander Rossi took
to the track for practice on Friday, becoming the first U.S. driver
to get behind the wheel of an F1 car since Scott Speed drove for
Toro Rosso in 2007. Speed was eventually replaced by the current
two-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.
The United States will host a race this season for the first
time in five years on Nov. 18 at Austin, Texas, and a second GP
will be held in New Jersey in 2013.
”American people are very patriotic, but there is no driver to
get behind and support,” Rossi said. ”I don’t see why Formula One
cannot be something America is a part of. I wouldn’t say it’s too
European at all.”
Phil Hill was the first American driver to win the championship
in 1961 and Mario Andretti title was the last in 1978.
Andretti’s son Michael raced 13 grand prix races for McLaren in
1993, with a third-place finish as his best result in that
The 22-year-old Rossi maintains there is interest in the sport,
particularly after Caterham signed agreements with several
big-spending American corporate sponsors.
”I think (the sponsors) realize there is a big opportunity
there that hasn’t been captured yet by Formula One,” said Rossi.
”I feel like I’m a critical part of that.
”My goal is to be a racer and I want to be someone who inspires
Americans to watch Formula One.”
The reason for lack of the F1’s popularity could be that Rossi’s
generation most vivid memory of U.S. involvement in the sport was
the infamous 2006 Unites States GP, when only six teams took part.
Seven teams pulled out over tire concerns. Fans littered the
Indianapolis track in protest.
”When they explained to me Formula One cars were quickest than
Champ cars, that got my attention,” said Rossi, who admits it’s
tough to break through the NASCAR and IndyCar dominance.
On Friday, Rossi finished his first spin behind the wheel of a
Caterham – formerly Lotus – 21st of 24 cars. He swerved off the
track once during practice for the Spanish Grand Prix race, which
”I enjoyed every minute of it,” Rossi said.
Paul Logothetis can be reached at: