He might only currently be a test and reserve driver, but as he took to the track for free practice on Friday morning Alexander Rossi was very much the hero of the hour.

"It was a proud moment when I drove out on track as the first American driver to take part in an official F1 race weekend session at COTA," he said. "[It's] something that will live with me for ever and an accolade I want to thank the team for, and everyone's who's backed me to help make happen here in Austin."

Rossi - originally hailing from California - is also the first American driver to appear in F1 since 2007 when Scott Speed raced at Indianapolis for Toro Rosso. Unfortunately his anticipated 90 minutes in the car this weekend were whittled down to just half that by problems beyond the team's control.

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"It's obviously a bit of a shame the session was cut short by the issues with the helicopter," Rossi said. "But the team worked really hard to make sure we could still run a decent number of laps, and by the end of the session we were only a few laps short of what we'd planned.

"I'm very pleased with how my FP1 session went, both for me and for the team," he added. "In the car the balance was pretty good right from the start of the session. With the cold track temperatures we knew we'd have issues with tyre warm-up and that was definitely the case on the first two runs, but on run three it had improved a bit, both because the temperatures had gone up and with a couple of setup changes we'd made."

Rossi has possession of the #21 car for the morning session, which after the lunchtime break was handed back to its current rightful owner Giedo van der Garde for a full-length FP2 outing.

"This is my first time driving this track so overall I'm pretty pleased with how close I ended up to my teammate, and the fact that we completed a good number of laps in FP2," said the Dutch driver. .I was comfortable with the track from early in the session and because I'd sat out FP1 we ran a slightly different runplan for the afternoon than normal - two runs on primes, a performance run on options and then the long run, also on the options.

"On run two the car was behaving a bit strangely, not like it has all year. I just couldn't carry any speed into the corners and even though my quickest lap time on the mediums was ok there was definitely time to be found," he added. "We finished with a long run on the mediums but we still had the same understeer issue throughout the run. We'll have a proper look at that tonight and I'm sure we'll sort it for tomorrow."

Van der Garde's team mate Charles Pic had the benefit of running both sessions on Friday which allowed him to finish the day with the best time of anyone in the Caterham or Marussia stables, despite initially reporting the same issues with understeer than van der Garde had experiences.

"We obviously had to wait quite a bit for [FP1] to start which cut into our runplan but by the end of the session we'd still completed 19 laps which was quite close to the target," he said. "But it still didn't really help us sort out the understeer that dominated the session. The low track temperatures didn't help, but on all three runs the car had very little front grip and it was understeering everywhere, obviously meaning I couldn't push anywhere around the lap.

"For FP2 we made quite a few changes to the car and it was immediately better - we made a good step with the work we did over lunch and I could immediately push much more than the morning session," he continued. "We started with the hard tyres and then went onto options for run two and with a bit more front wing added the grip improved in the low and medium speed corners, not so much in the high speeds, but overall it was another improvement."

The team will be hoping that the improvements carry through to Saturday's final hour-long morning practice session, before the serious business starts with qualifying in the afternoon.