x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Alexander Rossi is ready for his F1 debut

The 20-year-old American, will be making his F1 debut during the first practice at the Spanish Grand Prix.

Alexander Rossi raced at the Abu Dhabi Young Driver Test atYas Marina Circuit in November.
Alexander Rossi raced at the Abu Dhabi Young Driver Test atYas Marina Circuit in November.

The 20-year-old Californian will make his F1 debut during today's First Practice at the Spanish Grand Prix. He speaks to Gary Meenaghan about America, Abu Dhabi and Nascar.

Q. You have taken part in young driver tests before, but this is your first genuine race weekend. Does it feel different?

A. Yeah, definitely. This is what I have been preparing for my entire life. This is an official session and they are looking for me for a certain amount of input. You don't get a lot of opportunities in Formula One to show people what you can do, so while I'll be looking to help, I'll also be looking for a good performance.

You took part in the Young Driver Test in Abu Dhabi last year. How was that for you?

Before Abu Dhabi, I had just been a part of the Young Driver Development programme, attended a couple of grands prix, talked to a few engineers and attended briefings. Abu Dhabi was my first time to work with the guys and develop a relationship, which is great because now coming here, I know who I need to speak to about specific things which makes it all much easier.

The United States returns to the calendar this year in Austin and then New Jersey joins within a season or two. What's the interest like back home?

At the moment it is small, but growing. The two races on the calendar in the next two years is definitely a step in the right direction, but it is nowhere close to where I think it needs to be. America is very patriotic and they need someone to support and don't have that yet. So while it is great to have a race, it needs to have a driver and would be great to have a team too.

You will be the first American to take part in an F1 weekend since Scott Speed raced for Toro Rosso at the European GP in July 2007. Why is there such a lack of American drivers?

Because we have Nascar and Indycar, F1 gets overlooked. When you are growing up karting in the States, there is a very clear route to Indycar and Nascar, whereas if you're aiming for Formula One you need to move to Europe.

How has it been for you then taking that road less travelled?

It was difficult because there is not a lot of American knowledge or support at this time, so trying to find funding from corporate America was very difficult. On top of that, there is no ladder system in place to F1. It has not been an easy road and there is still a long way to go, but FP1 is a big achievement and I'm very proud to be an American in F1.

What do you make of the Circuit of the Americas track in Austin?

Austin looks fantastic and they are trying to incorporate some of the best corners in F1 into the track. They are trying to make it more of a facility, similar to Abu Dhabi, so it is more than just Formula One.

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae