Rossi: Preparing for Brazil, Abu Dhabi and 2016

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The life of a Formula One racing driver has its perks, but underpinning everything is hard work and huge amounts of effort both on and off track. This largely goes unseen by the fans, but this is true with most major athletes that have worked their whole lives to reach the next goal.

One thing I’ve learned in life and also in sport is that ‘You Never Arrive’. There is always more to learn, achieve and accomplish, especially when it’s an ultra-competitive environment.

Look at Mexico! We’ve just finished the Grand Prix there on a track that was fantastic to race on, and which looked incredible on TV, all with the atmosphere of a massive rock concert. The fans were amazing and the organizers did a truly world class job. From the moment we arrived, we were welcomed like Mexico’s favorite sons. It was very special feeling!

The amount of hard work that goes into promoting and hosting a Grand Prix is just astonishing. I know quite a few of people who put on the Mexican race, and they’ve been working flat out for many months to make sure they staged a memorable event. Thanks to them and the hundreds of thousands of fans that attended the race, F1 was brought back to Mexico in style and no doubt for many years to come.

For me the Mexico weekend went very well. We did have some up and downs, losing some track time in FP3, but we made up for it in qualifying and then on Sunday I put in my fourth race finish ahead of my teammate since my F1 debut in Singapore. With the package we have now that’s my main target; to continue to finish in front of my teammate. In F1 there are individual races going on throughout the overall Grand Prix and ours at Manor is a good one. In Mexico I put in my fastest time on the final lap and again achieved my main race goal – that’s a pretty good way to end the back-to-backs in Austin and Mexico.

Before talking more about what lies ahead this month, I want to mention again the people at COTA in Austin. They did a great job putting on a race that’s already being talked about as probably the race of the year, and when you think about the weather conditions they had to cope with, and over 100,000 people through the gates on Sunday, it is amazing what they achieved. For me there is pride and responsibility as America’s F1 driver, particularly when I hear that so many fans came out to watch the race despite the unpredictable weather. This tells me that F1 is becoming firmly established in the US which is what we have been and will continue to work towards.

I understand that after we’d all left for Mexico, Austin was hit again by even worse weather than we’d experienced during the Grand Prix week, and that someone who’d been working at COTA died in the flooding that hit Austin this past week. My thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family, and everyone affected by the latest cruel floods.

From Mexico, it was home to London for one day and then to Spain the rest of this week for GP2 simulator work and preparations for Bahrain and Abu Dhabi with Racing Engineering. Even with how well F1 is going, I look forward to racing my GP2 car again and locking up second place in this year’s championship.

Switching from F1 to GP2 is something I am really enjoying! GP2 is ultra-competitive and I have a great team and race car. It’s a fantastic championship and combined with my F1 ambitions for 2015 going along as anticipated is an awesome feeling. For 2016, our F1 plans with Manor F1 Team are progressing as we expected and I anticipate some great news very soon.

For now the next stop is Brazil, for the Brazilian Grand Prix and the penultimate round of the 2015 Formula 1 World Championship. Interlagos is a circuit I am seriously excited about! I have fantastic memories of racing there – in 2008 I won there twice in the Formula BMW of Americas Championship and now I’m back racing there in F1. Brazil is an important race on the F1 calendar and Interlagos is a historic track and I will be doing my part to deliver for Manor F1 Team and Formula 1 as a whole.

My 2015 racing campaign finishes after Brazil in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi. I want to secure second in the championship at the upcoming round in Bahrain, and fight for more GP2 wins at both races. It is my goal to leave the GP2 series with at least five wins, so I need two more before we’re done.

To most it might seem a bit strange to travel from Mexico to Spain and then back across the Atlantic to go to Brazil, all to spend time in a simulator preparing for GP2, but this is the sort of hard work I am talking about. This is the work that goes on everyday away from the cameras and the live audiences that helps drivers and teams succeed at the highest level. These details are vital as we prepare to push from the very first laps we run in Bahrain and in Abu Dhabi. That’s where all the hard work pays off.

Even with the workload I have ahead of me in Spain, I will still make sure to relax and rest a bit before Brazil! My trainer Carlos is also based in Spain and he’ll have a good eye on me with respect to diet, hydrations and training programs prior to Brazil. The relationship between driver and trainer is another one the fans don’t really have a lot of insight into, but it’s very important and critical to success on track.

The engineers look after the ones and zeros that make the cars operate at their optimum levels, the mechanics put in the hours to ensure everything works at the highest reliability rates and there are numerous others in a motor racing team who work flat out to make sure the “show” runs to plan, with the highest success levels possible. The trainer makes sure the driver is operating at peak performance at all times, including a driver’s sleep pattern and I’m very fortunate to work with one of the best in the business, even though he won’t let me eat what I might really want!

Have a great week everyone and thank you for your support, now on to Brazil!

Tom Blomqvist keeps eye on IndyCar during impressive rise: ‘ I would love to give it a go’


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In between two of his latest superstar-driver-in-waiting performances, Tom Blomqvist walked through the Daytona International Speedway garage in anonymity.

“Nobody knows who the (expletive) I am,” he said to a team member with a laugh (and without a trace of being miffed), evincing the cheeky humor of someone born in England, raised in New Zealand and also of Swedish descent.

The lack of recognition in the garage might have been because he was clad in a relatively nondescript shirt, hat and sunglasses instead of a colorful firesuit covered by sponsor logos. But he also was on the way to a Friday race eve media availability where his entrance was greeted by only one reporter (after a few minutes).

During a news conference a day earlier, he sat patiently on the dais while his Indy 500-winning teammates and car owner fielded nearly all the questions – even though Blomqvist had turned maybe the most impressive lap of the month to win the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position in the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category.

The Meyer Shank Racing driver still might lack the attention commensurate with his already world-class CV (which expanded Sunday with his second consecutive Rolex 24  victory for MSR), but Blomqvist, 29, clearly isn’t bothered by it.

He carries the quiet confidence of knowing his immense talent will ensure results that will make him impossible to ignore.

“To a degree, I guess, it’s definitely ramped up a lot for me,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports. “In America, I’m starting to get a lot more (attention). In the last year, I’ve quite often got a lot of maybe what you’d call the glory moments. It’s been fun. And within the paddock, there’s a lot of respect for me anyway. It’s been good.”

There have been several moments of acclaim since he joined MSR barely a year ago in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. In his first start for the team at last year’s Rolex 24, Blomqvist turned in a Herculean performance to position the No. 60 Acura for the victory (giving way to Helio Castroneves because he was too “cooked” to complete the last 74 minutes).

He was even better this year at Daytona.

He ripped off a monster “one and done” pole-winning lap to beat the clock in qualifying on the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course. During the race, Blomqvist was as dominant in his first stint as his last in the ARX-06 while taking the checkered flag. He set the mark for the fastest time on Lap 6 that no one topped over the final 755 laps.

The 10 fastest laps in the race belonged to Blomqvist, carrying over his speed from the 2022 when he won the Petit Le Mans season finale to clinch the premier prototype championship at Michelin Road Atlanta.

A year earlier at the same track, he had burst onto the radar of car owner Mike Shank, who was intrigued by Blomqvist’s results as a BMW factory driver in the Formula E and DTM series. In 2014, Blomqvist also finished between second in F3, between champion Esteban Ocon (now with Alpine’s F1 team) and Max Verstappen (who has won the past two Formula One championships).

“He did a lot of high-level stuff, and then kind of fell out of favor, or I don’t know what happened, but he was a free agent,” Shank said. “I started looking at his numbers, and I’m like, ‘We should test this guy. So I take him to Road Atlanta in the fall of ’21, and he got in the car and just slayed it.”

Within minutes, he had called co-owner Jim Meyer.

“I’ve got our guy,” Shank said. “This is our guy. There’s no question about it.

Honda Performance Development president David Salters hugs Tom Blomqvist after the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

“Now what’s happened, though, and I think if you look back at the Rolex here last year (and) what he did, he’s a gold nugget. He reminds me a little bit when (Robert) Wickens came into IndyCar out of DTM (as a rookie in 2018).

“He truly believes he’s the fastest guy out there, and he proved it (at the Rolex 24).”

Said David Salters, president for Honda Performance Development: “We love Tom. He’s the real deal, isn’t he? Immensely talented, super smart, and on it.

The great thing about our teams, the strength in depth is tremendous. But if you look through the sports car racing now, that’s the standard you have to have. Tom, brilliant, Filipe (Albuquerque), brilliant. Ricky (Taylor). You can go through that list. They’re all superstars. Tom is awesome. His lap in qualifying quite frankly was unbelievable.”

Having conquered one of the world’s greatest endurance races twice with Acura, Blomqvist could be ticketed for the world’s biggest race next – the Indy 500 — with HPD’s primary brand.

He tested a Dallara-Honda for MSR last October at Sebring International Raceway, and while he plans to focus solely on IMSA this season, he remains very intrigued by IndyCar.

And with Castroneves, 47, beginning a one-year deal with MSR’s IndyCar team, there could be an obvious opening in 2024.

“Obviously, it’s not in the cards this year,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports the day before the Rolex. “Yeah, I would love to give it a go. To be honest, I think that would be an amazing step for me in my career. I enjoy the sports car stuff so much. It’s been really good to me lately. I really enjoyed the style of racing.

“But I feel like IndyCar would be a step up for me and my career. It would be fantastic if I could get that opportunity. But yeah, I guess I have to keep pushing Mike or something to give me a shot. But obviously for now, the focus is here in the sports car stuff. It’s not really down to me at the end of the day. And I’ve got to do my job and then the people who pay the bills and make the decisions obviously have to decide if that’s something worth pursuing.

“But yeah, I’d love to give it a go, and I definitely would be up for it.”

Tom Blomqvist after winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole on the final qualifying lap (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

A transition from IMSA to IndyCar naturally would be easier than switching teams, but it also would be comfortable because Blomqvist already seems such a good fit at MSR.

It might have seemed an unusual pairing given his European-heavy background, but Blomqvist likes the Midwestern culture that’s been built at MSR. Based just outside Columbus, Ohio, the team’s shop has “no egos, and that just enables each and every one of to reach our potential.

“Obviously, with Honda, we obviously have some great resources, but we’re up against Porsche, BMW and some big heavy hitters in the motorsports world,” he said. “I wouldn’t say we’ve got a huge team compared to them, but we’ve obviously got a very capable team, and I think that’s what has been so impressive and really, really nice to see about the work that’s been done. No stone has been left unturned.”

Blomqvist still is living in Europe and planning to commute for the nine-race GTP schedule (which has a nearly two-month break after the Rolex 24 until the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring). But though he’s “got good friends in America, so I do have places to stay,” he seems open to being based more permanently near MSR in America.

“Let’s see what the future brings, and if that means me spending more time over here,” he said. “It’s a fantastic team. It’s a different environment to what I’m used to. It’s obviously now a hugely successful team, but it is a small team. It does feel like a very small family-operated team, which it is.

“I think Mike’s really just built this thing. It hasn’t happened overnight. Mike’s a great guy and put a lot of trust and faith in me, and I played a relatively good part in some of the success last year. I was able to reward him and give him my all every time I’m on track, and he respects that. But we are still a small team. In the grand scheme of things, we still are a really, really small team.”

Blomqvist said the BMW factory program would have two or three times the staffing of MSR – just on one of its two GTP cars.

“But it’s not the number of people that makes a difference, it’s the quality of people, and obviously Mike and HPD are a fantastic operation to go racing,” Blomqvist said. “We’re racers at heart.

“I’ve been part of some big outfits, and the European way of working is very, very different to how people go about racing in America. I’d say it’s more seat of your pants. A lot of emotion and kind of rides on that competitive spirt, competitive nature and on their personalities. It’s a lot more pure. It feels very pure. You want to win, so we go out and don’t cut corners on trying to win.”

Though it’s aligned with Liberty Media and has big-budget backing and support from Honda Performance Development, MSR also is much less corporate than most GTP teams.

A longtime and respected team owner who has built a sponsor portfolio, Shank also describes his maniacal dedication to success as “messed up,” and he’s known for dropping vulgarities into postrace interview with his blunt and self-deprecating sense of humor.

Meyer Shank Racing co-owner Mike Shank congratulates Tom Blomqvist on the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

With a more laid-back but sometimes just as biting demeanor, Blomqvist has become the team’s unquestioned leader behind the wheel

“I definitely feel a lot more immersed,” he said. “Within the team, I was a bit more of an unknown quantity the start of last year. Obviously after last season, the team trusts me a lot. And that gives me a lot of pleasure, pride and confidence. In this sport, confidence is a huge aspect of drivers’ psychology in a way. We’re in extremely high-pressure moments where my job is to perform under the pressure of these organizations and the brand as well.

“It’s just a good, healthy team to be a part of. It’s a high-pressure environment, but the team obviously have put a lot of faith in me, and I’ve been able to deliver for them on occasions.”

Rolex 24 starting lineup
Tom Blomqvist celebrates after winning the pole in the No. 60 Acura ARX-06 (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).