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.