American race driver Alexander Rossi will drive during the opening practice session in Austin, Texas next week for Caterham. Part of the team’s class of young drivers, Rossi just completed a full season of GP2 where he scored his maiden win in the final round in Abu Dhabi last weekend, becoming the first American driver to do so in the series’ history. Rossi finished ninth in the championship.
Rossi has had two previous practice outings with Caterham this year, making appearances in Spain and Canada. This will be the first time since 2007 that an American will officially participate in a Grand Prix weekend, and the first American to do so at the Circuit of the Americas.
Rossi will be hoping this final outing of the season is the one that will secure him a race seat with the team in 2014. With neither Giedo van der Garde nor Charles Pic officially confirmed for next season, Rossi will be doing his best to convince the team of his potential.
Caterham would be smart to sign Rossi. His talent has been proven on a number of occasions this season including his win in Abu Dhabi, and his podium finish in his series debut back in April in Bahrain. His time in Formula Renault 3.5 was less successful, but Rossi proved he means to make a mark on the sport this year in a series immediately below Formula One on the same circuits and on the same weekends.
Rossi is just what the sport needs at the moment as well. With Formula One’s debut at COTA last season being a resounding success, the sport needs to build on the momentum already created by Rossi’s imminent practice appearance. Americans haven’t had a countryman to root for since Scott Speed‘s fleeting stint in the sport from 2006-7. Even then, there was never any hope that he would fight for wins and championships.
With the uncertainty regarding the competitive order of the teams next year thanks to the new regulations, there is nothing stopping Caterham from becoming a surprise challenger in 2014. With an American driver and a competitive car, Formula One could gain a new fan base almost overnight.