Alexander Rossi said he was "truly impressed and motivated" after visiting the grand prix circuit site in Austin, Texas this week, where he met with Bruce Knox, president and CEO of the Formula 1 United States group, and Tavo Hellmund, the event's promoter.
Rossi, who will be driving for Fortec Motorsports in the Formula Renault 3.5 Series this season toured the initial work that has commenced for the racetrack that is being built for the 2012 Formula 1 season.
"My visit to Austin affirmed the belief that this is the right location to host a Formula 1 return to the States," Rossi said. "Tavo, Bruce, site workers and everyone I was able to meet this past week are extremely motivated and enthusiastic about the project. There is a buzz and energy that resonates within everyone I came in contact with in Austin. Everyone is aware that a major race and big event is coming to town. It's obvious by the professionalism at Formula 1 United States, that this event will take place in 2012."
Even though he is a long way from achieving his own F1 goals just yet, Rossi indicated he was still hopeful of taking part in next year's inaugural race in Austin: "I'll be working hard to earn the opportunity to represent America, lining up on the F1 grid for 2012," he added. "For now my focus is 2011 and World Series by Renault with Fortec Motorsports."
Knox made clear his group would love to have an American such as Rossi for its firs race, too.
"It was a great pleasure to meet with Alexander and to show him what we are going to achieve here. It is important for our home-grown talent to see what we envision for the USGP ," said Knox. "I have followed Alexander's career and it would be fantastic for both F1 and American racing to see him in an F1 car at the inaugural Formula 1 United States Grand Prix. We will be cheering him on at the Formula Renault Championship this year and hope to see him here in 2012."
Circuit designer Hermann Tilke has incorporated Austin's natural topography into the shape of the 3.4-mile racetrack, which "combines modern features with details reminiscent of traditional races from the 1960s," according to the organizers. The surrounding landscape will allow for a maximum elevation change of 133 feet, and the strategic combination of more than 20 turns. Although F1 tracks – and Tilke designs, in particular – have come in for criticism lately for their lack of passing opportunities, Hellmund (RIGHT) is confident that will not be the case in Austin. However, he offered enthusiastic support for the recent suggestion by Bernie Ecclestone and Pirelli that artificial "rain" segments be added to grands prix to spice up the action.
"Bernie Ecclestone's idea for artificial rain during races is brilliant on several fronts," Hellmund declared. "Controlled rain has several benefits: 1) It does not hurt promoter event ticket sales as it can be done even on sunny days. 2) Racing in the wet is spectacular and creates an added compelling element. True talent always shines in the wet. 3) The smaller teams should rejoice as rain is the ultimate equalizer, eliminating size of budgets and allowing pure talent to shine.
"I'll have to talk with Bernie soon about this to see if it is something that makes sense. We're obviously in a perfect position [to include such a feature], being at the front end of the construction process. We'd love to be one of the tracks to make this possible."