Rossi turns heads across the Atlantic
Two days after winning Round 9 of the Formula BMW Americas Championship at Lime Rock Park on July 12, points leader Alexander Rossi received a surprise invitation from Eurointernational team owner Antonio Ferrari to compete in Rounds 7 and 8 of Formula BMW Europe.
Some 48 hours later the 16-year old Nevada City native was at Hockenheimring and racing in support of the Formula 1 Grosser Preis von Deutschland 2008.
With only one track walk on Thursday of Hockenheimring and one 25 minute of practice session Friday, Rossi was the lone American in a 28-car field for the event and ready to qualify.
Regulars of the Formula BMW Europe had the benefit of earlier season testing here at the Hockenheimring in May. A high and low weekend for young Rossi with limited time on circuit he had the speed, but results were mixed including a grid penalty finishing 22nd in Round 7 and 10th in round 8.
“Surprises are something that you have to expect in racing and these kind of opportunities are what I have worked so hard for.” Rossi said via a press release. “It was an honor to receive the call from Antonio Ferrari last Monday requesting me to drive for his European FBMW team at Hockenheim. It is fantastic that he has confidence in my capabilities and verified all the hard put into my career this far. Being in New York after Lime Rock made it a bit easier to get to Germany rather from California on short notice.”
Facing a large field of 28 competitors from 15 countries, Rossi had only one 25-minute practice session on Friday morning before that afternoon’s qualifying session would set the grid for both races. Surprising the Formula BMW Europe regulars who had tested at Hockenheim in May, Rossi recorded a best lap of 1:45.958 minutes around the 4.574 kilometer, 17-turn circuit to qualify tenth for Round 7. His second fastest lap of the session (1:45.992 minutes) gained him the seventh starting position for Round 8. Following post-qualifying sporting violation and penalty of two other competitor’s, Rossi was moved up one position to start 9th and 6th.
Circuit was drying from recent rain within the 1/2 hour after GP2 event. From the ninth starting position, Alexander had to avoid some first lap malay and soon caught in a tight group of seven cars that held him without the opportunity to move forward. Alexander the faster of the cars directly in front was being held up for several laps. With a huge run on competitors entering turn 4 (the hairpin) on the last lap, Alexander was pushed down low by competitor leaving no room. Underbraking he made the pass to take ninth, but the lack of grip on the inside did not allow for speed reduction and unfortunately made contact with Ramond Pineiro just ahead. The contact damaged Rossi’s left front suspension, but he was able to continue, ultimately finishing 22nd. Pineiro retired from the race.
“After reviewing data I broke at the same location as previous laps, the lack of grip on the inside did not allow me to get the most out the brakes,” Rossi said. “It was unfortunate Pineiro did not finish knowing he is fighting for rookie championship points. The grid penalty for round No. 8 seemed severe considering circumstances leading up to the incident and seemed to overlooked. The rules are different in Europe. This is OK. It will take getting used to, however the competition is great. This is racing. I have learned to take the good and the bad and focus on what can be learned from it moving forward.”
The officials penalized Rossi 10 starting grid spots for the incident in Round 7 with Pineiro relegating him to 16th. Instead of what would have been a sixth place starting position with a real chance at a podium finish with the speed he had, Rossi now faced an uphill battle from 16th. Another strong start saw him move up three positions on the start. During the 13-lap race he raced past three more competitors to finish 10th. Setting the third-fastest lap of the race, Rossi served notice to the Formula BMW Europe drivers who will be among his toughest competition in the 2008 Formula BMW World Final.
“I knew coming here that qualifying well was most important and believe we did that with the limited time on circuit,” he said. “Myself and the team were very pleased with my speed considering the circumstances. Without the grid the penalty we had a good shot at the podium on Sunday starting 6th, this was disappointing. The team was very supportive after the penalty and I believe the most was made of Round 8 considering it was only a 13 lap race.”
In the eight Formula BMW Americas races contested so far this season, Rossi has scored four wins (in the last five races), recorded four poles and six fastest race laps. Rossi leads the championship with 122 points over Ricardo Favoretto, in second with 103.
Rounds 10, 11 and 12 of the 2008 Formula BMW Americas Championship will be held at Road America, in Elkhart Lake, Wisc., Aug. 7-10.
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New season. New co-head coaches. Same expectations.