Rossi: A Sochi win, and full-on prep for Austin

Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP2 Series Media Service
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And so it continues, still lots of work to do but I left Sochi feeling good about the momentum and another win leading into the final GP2 rounds in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi.

I really enjoy racing on street circuits and Racing Engineering did an awesome job all weekend to help me put my third win in three race weekends on the board. It wasn’t quite enough to delay Stoffel’s celebrations, but full congratulations to him for his 2015 Championship – it’s been a fantastic battle with him all year. Now that the title pressure is off and we’re so close to locking up second in the championship, I’m really looking forward to the final GP2 races in November.

It was an interesting weekend, to say the least! We had some issues to sort out in practice and quali was wet, which was good for me. I qualified third and on the delta my last lap was quickest by a big margin, but unfortunately because of traffic in sector two, I was unable to improve from third.

The start was good on Saturday and I was straight into second place, but then the red flag from the shemozzle behind stopped everything for just over 30 minutes while they sorted out the problems on track.

When something like that happens the team has to work super efficiently, so the strategy shifted a little for us as the sun was beginning to set. On another note, it was also impressive to see how efficiently the marshals coped with that sort of problem, as we saw in F1 as well with Carlos and Romain over the weekend.

They’re kind of like the mechanics, another group of people without whom we simply couldn’t go racing, and all too often they don’t get the credit they deserve for doing such a great job. Many of them travel around the world to work at different events and my thanks goes to them for helping us do our jobs, safely and securely.

Back to racing… We started again behind the safety car and I was right up with Alex Lynn and ready for my chance when he pitted. He came in and I pushed hard, setting fastest laps with a car that felt really good at that stage of the race. Then I pitted and came out again right with Alex but his tires were already up to temperature so the fight was on again and I applied pressure for the lead. We had a great fight going and with three laps to go I was able to take advantage of a mistake he made, finishing the race just over three seconds ahead of Gasly and Stoffel behind.

Winning race one meant I started the sprint race on Sunday in eighth with the reverse grid. This was a much more uneventful race, finishing sixth, with no pit stops and struggling a bit with rear grip from the start of the race. But, all in all it was a great weekend and lots of points on the board.

Up next, I’m heading home and to the USGP with the Manor Marussia F1 Team for the 2015 US Formula 1 Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

I have a very busy week in the UK before I fly out to America. I’m splitting my time between F1 race preparations; physical training, engineering programs and a lot of media scheduled both in the UK and New York before Austin comes around.

It’s great to see the support that F1 has around the world, and I’m doing my bit to help make sure as many people as possible know about what a great show Circuit of The Americas will be putting on.

Obviously Austin and the US Grand Prix means I’ll be back in my F1 seat. I’ve driven the track in a variety of vehicles, including a Lotus 49 which I was privileged to drive around there a couple of years back. I also took part in various FP1s for Caterham when they were in F1. 2015 will be my first time around COTA in the current generation F1 power units.

COTA is right up there as one of the best anywhere in the world. I mean that, it has it all! The first sector in particular is great – there’s a few different lines through turn one which climbs up a very steep gradient and then into a pretty tight left, and then the whole section from turn two through turn 10 is awesome. It’s technical, quick and you have to let the car flow through each turn to make sure you maintain momentum.

Out of 11 there’s a long and flat out straight, and then it’s into a stadium section that’s kind of like Hockenheim, except quicker. There are fans in the grandstands all around turns 12, 13, 14 and 15 and then you’re into the final sector and the run to the flag.

I hope to see you there! Book yourself a trip to Austin and come see F1 Texas style.

PREVIOUS BLOGS

Rossi: Looking ahead to Russia and returning to GP2
Rossi: Reflecting on my first two F1 races

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

Verstappen Perez United States
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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.