Alexander Rossi finds it “surreal” that he will be making his full Formula 1 debut in this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix.
Rossi will become the first American driver to race in F1 since Scott Speed back in 2007 after signing a five-race deal with Manor, replacing Roberto Merhi.
After a number of near-misses in 2014 with Marussia, Rossi explained to NBCSN how he finds it hard to believe that he is just three days away from starting a grand prix for the first time.
“Surreal – I haven’t quite gotten there yet,” Rossi said when asked if his step up had sunk in yet. “I think come Sunday morning it’s gonna be a better day than Christmas.
“Now I’m just trying to absorb everything and take on board everything that I need to do for tomorrow. At this point in time, I just can’t wait to get in a race car.”
Rossi had been due to make his grand prix debut in Belgium last year when Max Chilton was poised to be dropped by Marussia for the weekend, only for the Briton to strike a new deal with the team to keep his seat. Further opportunities nearly came about in Russia and Abu Dhabi, but Rossi never lined up on the grid.
Now though, Rossi is delighted to have everything in place to make his race debut on Sunday.
“[I’ve] kind of been down this road a couple of times before, and we haven’t quite done the full thing,” Rossi said.
“Now I know it’s going to happen, so I’m just really making sure I’m as ready as a possibly can be to make the most of the opportunity. It’s not an opportunity that comes along very often. I’m here and I’m ready to maximize it.
Rossi revealed that the deal with Manor came about very late, having only found out on Monday that he would be racing in Singapore this weekend.
“There were some discussions going back and forth towards the end of the week, but nothing was really looking like it was going to happen because it was so last minute,” he explained.
“And then I found out middle of Monday night that it was going to happen, so I then woke up, got out of bed and booked some flights Tuesday morning to fly here and arrive Tuesday night. I was in Spain with my GP2 team debriefing Monza, and was planning to just go down there and do what I need to do. And now here I am in Singapore.”
Rossi will race in front of his home fans at the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas in October, and the Californian is relishing the opportunity to delight the crowds at the Circuit of The Americas.
“I don’t even want to think about that right now because I’ve got Singapore and Japan to do first,” Rossi said. “But every athlete’s dream is to compete at home.
“Looking back on when I just did free practice in 2013, it was an unbelievable experience. Now to go there and to be a full-time race driver and race in front of what have been truly amazing American fans and have been so supportive and so interested in F1, I think it will be a massive thing and hopefully just the start of something great.”