Rossi impresses in FP1 for Caterham

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American Alexander Rossi put in an excellent effort in this morning’s truncated first practice session for the United States Grand Prix. Rossi had prior track experience at Circuit of the Americas in an old Jim Clark Lotus 49 in the winter, but FP1 marked an opportunity to take over Giedo van der Garde’s Caterham chassis for his second FP1 appearance of the 2013 Formula One season.

Rossi ended the session 19th, seven tenths clear of teammate Charles Pic while running the same program. The Marussias of Max Chilton (20th) and Rodolfo Gonzalez (22nd) sandwiched the second Caterham.

Rossi was one of only five drivers to get laps in before the first red flag. With time and proper laps run, Rossi got down to a 1:41.399 around the 3.4-mile circuit, two tenths up on Chilton ahead of him.

“It wasn’t too bad to be honest,” Rossi explained. “By the third or fourth lap I was very comfortable with where the track went. There’s a ton of information and prep work that goes into it from an engineering side of things. I knew going out what to expect, and because it wasn’t the first year here I had got a lot of input from the team.”

Understandably, there was “no comparison” in trying to drive an iconic, historic chassis versus a modern day car, but Rossi said the overall grip level was fine for FP1.

Having a chance to reflect on his season as a whole, with his first win in GP2 achieved two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi, Rossi said it was important to end on a high note.

“Every year you progress in motorsports, you learn things you didn’t know before,” he said. “To be honest 2013 wasn’t my best year in a junior formula, but the win is the best thing going into the offseason. It was great timing with that and today’s run.”

Asked about next year, Rossi said he has “absolutely no idea” what he’ll be doing.

“All I know is I got to drive an F1 car today. Anytime you get an opportunity to drive an F1 car is special,” he said.

Of the other FP1-only drivers, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat (driving Jean-Eric Vergne’s chassis) was 17th with Gonzalez, in for Jules Bianchi, 22nd and last and 2.1 seconds off Chilton for Marussia. Gonzalez’s car was smoking toward the end of the session.

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.