Rossi: Surreal to be on brink of F1 debut


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.”

Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023; leaves open possibility of returning at Ganassi

Jimmie Johnson race 2023
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Though he remains uncertain of his plans for next year, Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023, scaling back his schedule after running a full 17-race NTT IndyCar Series season.

“This was a difficult choice for me, but in my heart, I know it’s the right one,” Johnson said in a statement Monday morning. “I’m not exactly sure what the next chapter holds, but if an opportunity comes along that makes sense, I will consider it. I still have a bucket list of racing events I would like to take part in. Competing at this level in IndyCar has been such a great experience.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better team to race for than Chip Ganassi and Chip Ganassi Racing. Everyone worked extremely hard for the last two seasons, pushing to get the best performances out of me every single week. The support from my crew and teammates Dario (Franchitti), Scott (Dixon), Tony (Kanaan), Marcus (Ericsson) and Alex (Palou) went above and beyond anything I could have ever asked for.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR JIMMIE JOHNSON: An analysis of his racing options for the 2023 season

Driving the No. 48 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, Johnson ranked 21st in the 2022 points standings with a career-best fifth place July 24 at Iowa Speedway.

After running only road and street courses for Ganassi in 2021, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion added ovals this year. In his Indy 500 debut, he qualified 12th and finished 28th after a late crash.

“I do have a desire to go back (to IndyCar), it’s just at this point, I know what’s required to do a full schedule, and I don’t have that in me,” Johnson told AP. “I don’t have that passion that I need for myself to commit myself to a full season.”

That leaves open the concept of Johnson returning part time with Ganassi, perhaps exclusively on ovals.

“We are fully supportive of Jimmie,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a statement. “He has been a valued member of our team and if we can find a way to continue working together, we would like to do so.”

During IndyCar’s season finale race weekend, Johnson told reporters Sept. 9 that he planned to explore his options with wife Chandra and daughters Evie and Lydia. Johnson told the Associated Press that his family is considering living abroad for a year or two, and he has toyed with the idea of running in the World Endurance Championship sports car series because of its international locales.

Johnson hasn’t ruled out IndyCar, IMSA sports cars or even a cameo in NASCAR next year. Since retiring from full-time NASCAR after the 2020 season, he has entered the endurance races of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac (including Saturday’s Petit Le Mans season finale). Johnson also wants to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is a prime candidate for the Garage 56 entry (a joint project of NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports).

Johnson told the AP he is interested in becoming the latest driver to try “The Double” and run both the Coca-Cola 600 and Indy 500 on the same day (the most recent was Kurt Busch in 2014).

“You know me and endurance sports, and ‘The Double’ sounds awesome,” Johnson, a four-time Coke 600 winner, told AP. “I’ve always had this respect for the guys who have done ‘The Double.’ I would say it is more of a respect thing than a bucket-list item, and I’d love to put some energy into that idea and see if I can pull it off.”

It is less likely that he would return to IMSA’s endurance events because its top prototype series is being overhauled, limiting the amount of inventory available for the new LMDh cars in the rebranded GTP division.

Johnson has confirmed that he would retain primary sponsor Carvana, which has backed him in IndyCar the past two years. He revealed his decision Monday during the last episode of “Reinventing the Wheel,” Carvana Racing’s eight-part docuseries about his 2023 season.

“I’m thankful for the partnership with a company like Carvana for allowing me to take this journey in IndyCar, for seeing the value in our partnership and being open to future opportunities together,” Johnson said. “They have truly showed me that there are no finish lines in life. Along with Carvana, The American Legion, Ally, cbdMD and Frank August were there every step of the way, and I couldn’t have done it without all of them. Most importantly — and the true rockstars in all of this –my family, Chani, Evie and Lydia. They have always allowed me to chase my dreams, and we are all just really excited about what the future holds for all of us. I have enjoyed every minute of these last two years.”

Said Carvana co-founder Ryan Keeton: “During the past two years, Jimmie Johnson has been so amazing to collaborate with. Our team admires his passion, hard work and commitment to continuous improvement while also having fun, and we look forward to continuing to support him next year in this new chapter.”