Heikki Kovalainen is confident that F1 can make a new impact on the American public when it makes its debut appearance at the Circuit of the Americas
The Finn was a leading light in the inaugural GP2 Series championship when F1 made its most controversial visit to the United States, with the 2005 USGP at Indianapolis being run with just six cars after the majority of the field pulled in after the formation lap amid concerns over potentially dangerous levels of tyre wear.
Although there were two further USGPs run, with decent crowds, at the Brickyard, an extension to its contract was not forthcoming as financial wrangling took hold, and America has been without a grand prix for five years, before the ambitious CotA plan came to fruition.
The circuit, built close to Texan state capital Austin, has drawn rave reviews from those able to visit in person or test the layout on a simulator, and Kovalainen is looking forward to getting into his Caterham CT01 for real on Friday.
"CotA looks like a great circuit,” he confirmed, “I've spent a day in the simulator preparing for it, so I know how it flows. They've taken the same approach as we saw in India, adding in up and downhill sections with some really quick corners and a couple of heavy braking zones where it should be possible to pass other cars.”
The Finn is under no illusion, however, that F1 still has some bridge-building to do to get an American public largely obsessed by NASCAR on side in order to make the USGP a success going forward.
"I think one of the key things to how successful the weekend will be is how the American fans take to the race,” he noted, “We've obviously been there before and there's a lot of other racing that US fans are very passionate about, but F1 has changed since we last raced there and we know what it takes to put on a show, so I think it's going to be really good.”
While the Finn is looking forward to using the trip to hook up with friends on the international golf circuit, Caterham team-mate Vitaly Petrov will be taking in the US ambience as he makes his first visit to the country. The Russian, whose place on the grid remains in doubt for 2013, shares Kovalainen's views that the Austin circuit could be one of the best on the calendar.
"I think all the drivers are excited about getting on track,” he said, “It's a new challenge and, from what I've seen in the simulator, it could be a really special track.
“There's a lot of elevation change, a few blind corners where it's going to be tricky to find the apex and quite a lot of the lap is high speed.
“From what I've seen of our schedule, the whole weekend is going to be very busy for us - we have a lot of important sponsors in America so it'll be pretty intense, on and off track, but I think it'll be one of the best weekends of the year."