In recent days, Americans, who may not reliably appear at the forefront of international motor racing series like Formula 1, have made big news. On Tuesday, September 29, The Haas F1 team, a developing American Formula 1 team expected to be on the grid for the 2016 season, made the announcement of its first signed driver — current Lotus pilot, Romain Grosjean. When Haas appears on the grid next spring, it will be the first team from the U.S. to do so in 30 years.
Recently, American GP2 racer Alexander Rossi was announced as the new driver for the F1 Manor team, slated to complete most of the remaining races of the 2015 season. Taking over from Spanish driver, Roberto Merhi at mid-season, Rossi has already competed in the Singapore and Japanese Grands Prix, finishing 14th and 18th, respectively. He will continue to campaign the GP2 series as well this season, where he was in second place in the standings when he was added to the F1 schedule a few weeks ago.
About the Grosjean announcement on Tuesday, Haas F1 Team Founder and Chairman Gene Haas said in the team’s release, “We wanted an experienced driver capable of developing our car and our race team into one that can score points and better itself each race and each season. We found him in Romain Grosjean.” Haas continued, “I’ve been involved in motorsports for a long time and learned early on the most crucial component is the driver. Romain has strong credentials and he will be an important asset to Haas F1 Team.”
For his part, the current Lotus driver said, “What Gene Haas and everyone at Haas F1 Team is building is impressive, and I’m very proud to be a part of it.” He added, “Formula One is incredibly competitive and the only way to succeed is by finding new ways of doing things. This is a new opportunity with a new team that is taking a very different approach to Formula One. I believe in their approach and they believe in me. While I am committed to giving my absolute best to my current team in these last five races, I am very excited for what the future holds at Haas F1 Team.”
Haas F1 Team Principal, Guenther Steiner, also had a comment on the announcement, saying, “In addition to being an experienced Formula One driver, Romain is very technically minded. He gives strong, specific feedback as to how the car performs. As we develop our car in testing and throughout the season, his insight will be crucial.”
The second driver is yet to be announced by Haas. Speculations have run to other experienced F1 drivers, despite a continuing interest among fans in tying up American driver Rossi with the new American team.
While Haas is looking for experience to help his new team get off the ground, Rossi is gaining some of that F1 experience now. As the only American holding an FIA Super License, the 24-year-old came close to competing in his first F1 race in the past, only to have doors close. Most recently, in the 2014 Russian Grand Prix, Rossi was slated to fill in for injured Jules Bianchi on the Marussia team before the team decided to grid only one car for that race, leaving Bianchi’s car in the garage as a tribute. Previously, Rossi was announced as taking the drive for the 2014 Belgian Grand Prix when contract negotiations with Max Chilton were going through a rough spot with Marussia. That drive also fell through when issues cleared and Chilton hung on to the seat.
Rossi will do double duty in F1 and GP2 the rest of the 2015 season. In F1, he is scheduled to race the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) later this month as well as the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix. Roberto Merhi will drive for the team in the Russian Grand Prix and the race concluding the F1 season at Abu Dhabi.
Rossi is looking forward to the U.S. Grand Prix at COTA. In his first blog post for NBC Sports, posted on Wednesday, September 30, he wrote, “I imagine, as all F1 fans are feeling, especially those in America, Austin can’t come soon enough.”
With many American motor sport fans being most familiar with NASCAR and IndyCar, Formula 1 has room to grow in popularity in the country. Having an American F1 team and an American driver on the grid will likely go far in helping increase interest and enthusiasm for the sport Stateside.