SINGAPORE (Reuters) - American Alexander Rossi made an inauspicious start to his first Formula One grand prix weekend as a race driver when he crashed during Friday’s opening practice in Singapore.
The 23-year-old Californian, set to become the first American to race in the sport since 2007, lost control of his Manor Marussia near the end of the first 90-minute session and slammed into a wall.
Rossi escaped unhurt but his car suffered damage with the right front wheel dangling off as it was taken back to the team garage.
“I braked a bit too late in Turn 18,” Rossi told BBC. “I felt quite comfortable in the car and the pace was OK.”
Rossi’s wrecked car left Marussia’s engineers with their race against time, scrambling to repair the car before the second session.
Fortunately, it was not as badly damaged as first thought, although they still had replace the gearbox and the front wheel, working in atrocious heat.
The car was still not fixed when the second session got underway but the team pleaded for understanding, tweeting: “Working like Ninjas to get the car out this session. You try building a car at speed in 84 per cent humidity!”
Marussia are currently last in the standings, without a point this season, so Rossi arrived in Singapore without any real expectations. He told reporters his main goal was to beat British team mate Will Stevens.
Rossi was a fraction faster for most of the opening session but the Englishman edged ahead after the sun went down and the lights were turned on for the twilight session.
Stevens was one of the first drivers out on the circuit in the second session but it was just a brief appearance as he spun into a barrier, damaging his car.
Rossi only got back on to the track with 20 minutes left but made up for lost time to inch back ahead of Stevens and gain some consolation after a rough start.
Rossi was only told a few days ago that he would be making his Formula One debut in Singapore, replacing Spain’s Roberto Merhi for five of the last seven races this season.
The last American to drive in Formula One was Scott Speed, who competed for Toro Rosso in 2006 and 2007.
To celebrate his promotion, Rossi chose number 53 for his debut, the same number carried by Disney’s ‘Herbie the Love Bug’.
Editing by Alan Baldwin