First Impressions Mean A Lot

First impressions mean a lot in this day and age of social media and instant gratification. The general public is not going to be patient enough to give someone the benefit of the doubt and give anyone a second, third or fourth look if they didn’t like what they saw on the first. You generally get one shot to make a great impression. If you are underwhelming, you are forgotten. If you come across as unlikeable, you are fed to the wolves.

Last week on Trackside, Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee introduced us to Alexander Rossi – Andretti Autosport’s rookie driver that will drive their fourth car in conjunction with Bryan Herta Autosport.

I’ll be honest – I knew very little about Alexander Rossi; except that he was an American that had spent most of his adult life racing in Europe, much like Conor Daly. I’ll also admit that I was not real happy that Gabby Chavez had been kicked to the curb after Herta merged his team with Michael Andretti. I thought Gabby had done a phenomenal job with a low budget team last season, and I thought he had earned the opportunity for a second year.

I read the press release that came out last week that touted the twenty-four year-old Rossi’s accomplishments – and they were impressive. Since moving to compete in Europe in 2008, Rossi has moved up steadily through the ranks to reach the pinnacle of open-wheel racing – Formula One. Rossi drove in five F1 races for Manor Marussia near the end of the 2015 season, including the US Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, TX.

Still, I knew very little about Rossi and was anxious to know more, since he was slated to drive the entire upcoming Verizon IndyCar Series season. That’s why I was happy to learn that he would be a guest on Trackside last Tuesday evening.

Unfortunately, I was not impressed. Alexander Rossi gave me the impression that he was going to be very tough to warm up to. Based on whatever you can tell in a radio interview, I found Rossi to be very aloof. I consider Curt Cavin and Kevin Lee to both be very adept at interviewing. However, they both seemed to be taken aback at the awkwardness of the whole conversation. They would ask well thought-out questions and Rossi would respond with a few monosyllabic words, then let his answer end with a long pause dangling at the end. You could almost hear Curt and Kevin scrambling through their notes to get to the next question.

Arrogant…cold…aloof …were all words that ran through my head as the seven-minute interview trudged along as if it were an eternity.

When Kevin Lee asked him about his comments a couple of years back when he said he had no interest in running IndyCar, he seemed to dismiss it as if it wasn’t even worth his time to answer such a question. There were a couple of moments when he was obviously distracted and seemed to be rambling. The only time I could perceive an uptick in emotion from Rossi was when Curt Cavin asked him if it would be a refreshing change to be in a formula that shares information with teammates. He proceeded to defend Formula One and say it is a misconception that F1 does not follow the team concept.

Maybe I’m wrong and I totally misread the interview. Perhaps Alexander Rossi is a great guy, who just happened to be interviewed at the wrong time when a million things were going through his mind. But what I heard sure sounded like someone who would have preferred getting a root canal rather than talking to a couple of reporters from IndyCar. To be fair, the quotes I read from Rossi at this weekend’s test in Phoenix made him sound a lot more likable than he did the other night

Many will say that it is a result of having lived in Europe since he was sixteen. Are all Europeans that way? He mentioned Max Papis as his favorite driver and that he saw Alex Zanardi race. Both of those drivers are European, but they are both personable and passionate. They don’t mumble their way through interviews while giving the impression they are flat-lining.

Besides, there are two young American drivers in his age group that also spent their formative years racing through Europe – Conor Daly and Josef Newgarden. They both exude passion and excitement. You get the idea they are ecstatic to be where they are, not settling for Plan B because Formula One didn’t work out.

I hope I am wrong and something tells me that I am. Too many people whose opinions I trust and value, tell me that Alexander Rossi is the next great American driver. Who Knows? I may be blown away by his talents at St. Petersburg and he may impress me with his exuberance in an interview, and I’ll wonder why I ever wrote this post.

But for now, let’s just say that I’m a little skeptical. He may be the next great thing, but if what I heard last week is a true representation of his personality – he may end up being a driver I can appreciate, but never really care for or pull for. First impressions mean a lot.

George Phillips

21 Responses to “First Impressions Mean A Lot”

  1. Brian McKay 4:22 Central Time Says:

    As on some other mornings I refrain from choosing an anser in the poll. I watched a two-minute interview by enthusiastic Robin Miller. And Rossi just seemed calm or ‘chill.’ He talked. He gave long, rambling answers.

  2. I did not hear the Trackside interview yet but I have heard others. This guy is a tough one to figure out. I am thrown by his interviewing prowess offset by his lack of enthusiasm. He answers questions quickly probably from experience but and he has the arrogance of a European F1 driver. A year in IndyCar might change his demeanor, but I agree, I want to like the guy and he is making it difficult.

  3. George, your “other” choice in your poll should have said “I don’t give a crap about the guy.” I voted “other.”

  4. Ok, I listened to the Trackside interview. My impression was Cavin and Kevin were enthused and excited to interview him and Rossi was basically the opposite. In one word…..unenthusiastic. Definitely his “plan B”. It makes me want to root against him and secretly hope he gets his ass kicked on ovals- even better, on a road course. I will check in on his Sebring test. One cannot argue that this won’t spice up the series and that is a good thing. It’s fun to have someone to root against.

  5. “Rossi has moved up steadily through the ranks to reach the pinnacle of open-wheel racing – Formula One.”


    If Rossi feels the same way, you may have just answered your own question.

  6. I did hear the interview and I had the distinct impression that if he got a call from F-1, he’d drop everything and go back there, leaving Andretti/Herta to pound sand. I don’t know how airtight contracts are for IndyCar drivers, but it was clear to me that this is nothing more than a back-up plan to him.

    I also question how he’s going to respond to oval racing. Somehow, I can’t see this guy enjoying going toe-to-toe at Texas (or Indy for that matter) with the best we have to offer.

    Based on what I’ve read from other fans, I’d suggest that Michael Andretti might want to get in this guy’s ear and tell him that unlike F-1, fan reaction here IS important and he should treat this as an opportunity, not a punishment.

  7. I’m content to wait until I see what he does on the track before deciding whether to “like” him. I think the practice of critiquing a race driver’s interviewing skills arrived with the internet. I don’t recall Vuky or A.J. being all that bubbly.

    • Mike Silver Says:

      Good point, Ron. Let’s see what kind of racer he is before we judge. I always thought Mears was pretty vanilla in interviews as well.

  8. It helps when the interviewer asks intelligent questions. Asking a driver what he thinks of a car he has never driven or a type of track he has never driven on just isn’t the smartest interview ever, in my oh, so humble opinion.

    Just sayin’….

  9. I’ll hold off my judgment until I can see more. However, I like his potential.

  10. billytheskink Says:

    He was not an engaging interview, but to be fair to Rossi, you can hear during that Trackside interview that wherever he was on the phone was noisy and distracting. Kevin Lee makes reference to this as Rossi “multi-tasking”. Sometimes you have to make or take a call in a less-than-ideal environment. I will give him the benefit of the doubt, for now, as an interviewee.

    There are several sidelined drivers I would rather see in the series than him, but Rossi is not the only driver I could say that about. He is obviously disappointed to not be in Formula 1 this year, as until very recently he expected to be. I understand that, where he is now is not the goal he has been working towards. Perhaps, though, he’ll start finding himself preferring Indycar to F1. He wouldn’t be the first.

    I will be very interested to see how he performs. Drivers switching disciplines is always an interesting situation.

  11. Listening to the show last week, my first impression was that Rossi’s enthusiasm was incredibly low, but I realize he was in the middle of a media circus in those few days. Obviously IndyCar is his second option, but I’m interested to see how he’ll mix with the other drivers, on and off the track. Maybe he’ll warm up to it and end up loving it. Maybe he doesn’t. I just want him to appreciate what he has, and how many other drivers would kill to be in his position.

  12. hey George I heard the interview and agree. I feel bad for gabby. but since the seriss mergered this group cant seem to get it right.

    this is the second f1 reject who has panned the seris)
    (max Chilton)

    when guys like chaves and karam who really want to be in the seris sit out. sounds just like the days of cart. come to think of it that’s wat they have been screaming for anyway. be careful wat you ask for you may just get it.

  13. maybe he’s good for the series either way. if he turns out to be a good driver with a pleasant attitude, it’s a win. if he turns out to be an egomanical, arrogant driver then Indycar has a new bad guy to root against. Indycar needs more bad guys anyway, most of them seem very available, open and friendly to fans.

  14. DZ-groundedeffects Says:

    I’ve never been one to celebrate the misfortune of any competitor, even those that I do not find particularly attractive to support. Especially in the high-risk game of autosport where people actually die from misfortune on an all-too-regular basis for my liking.

    However, for those who can suspend that grievous reality of autosport, and need a ‘black hat’ to root against, I think it’s more than safe to say that you’ve found your man.

  15. ecurie415 Says:

    What matters is what he does on a race track, not on Trackside. Let’s see how he drives a car rather than how he works a mic. There are more than a few well-known drivers who are less than engaging and/or difficult interviews. And quite a few who grew into the role over time. Seems like the fan base is ready to dismiss a guy over one interview and without him having entered a single IndyCar race.

  16. It seems a bit like a Scott Speed situation. That’s actually not a compliment. I still feel a bit that was about Daly as well. It is what it is, though.

    Others made the comment about needing a villain and I hadn’t thought about it. There really hasn’t been one for me since Patrick and Scheckter. I do feel like Rossi can be that guy, if he’s not a backmarker.

  17. […] Since the late announcement of the partnership between Bryan Herta Motorsport and Andretti Autosport (Bryandretti Automotosport?) the reaction to signing Rossi has been, shall we say, unenthusiastic. From Oilpressure: […]

  18. Very good website you have here but I was wanting to know if you knew of any message boards that cover the same topics talked about in this article? I’d really like to be a part of group where I can get feedback from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Bless you!

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