Rossi to replace van der Garde in Bahrain practice

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Caterham reserve driver Alexander Rossi will get another taste of Grand Prix weekend running at the Bahrain Grand Prix, where he will replace Giedo van der Garde during Free Practice 1.

Rossi became the first American driver to compete during a race weekend since Scott Speed in 2007 at last year’s Spanish Grand Prix, and having been retained by the team for 2013, he will get another chance to impress in Bahrain.

It was also confirmed today that Rossi’s fellow test driver, Ma Qing Hua, will deputize for Charles Pic at the Chinese Grand Prix, which will undoubtedly act as an extra draw for Hua’s home crowd in Shanghai.

Although van der Garde was not pleased to be losing the practice session in Bahrain, he told GP Update that he was contractually obliged to make way for Rossi.

“I would have rather be driving these sessions myself and get as much track time as possible,” van der Garde said. “But this is in the contract and I’m sure it will be good experience for these guys.”

van der Garde also reflected on his own test driver duties for Caterham, believing his Friday running went a long way to securing him the seat with the team.

“I had that same role with the team last year and because of the work I did then, I earned this race seat.”

This will present a good opportunity for both Hua and Rossi, and as the American F1 market continues to grow, the latter may become a hotly sought-after driver should a seat become vacant.

With both Pic and van der Garde making way so early in the season, it will only fuel rumors that Caterham could be set to drop one of their drivers. Heikki Kovalainen, who drove for the team between 2010 and 2012, was a guest of the team in Malaysia, and sources in the paddock believe that the team could bring the Finnish driver back following a lackluster start to the 2013 season.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.