On Friday, for the first time since the 2007 European Grand Prix at the Nurburgring, an American driver took to the track in a contemporary Formula 1 car on a race weekend.
Alexander Rossi's outing was only for one session and the car was handed back to its regular driver Heikki Kovalainen in time for FP2, but it was a big step towards getting that all-important representation from the USA on the grid for the first time since Scott Speed was given the boot by Toro Rosso.
By his own admission, Rossi is still some way off a race seat in F1. His junior-formula CV, which includes the 2005 Formula BMW Americas title and victories in GP3, Formula Master and Formula Renault 3.5 (finishing a distant third in last year's standings), is good, but there is still more to prove. His tidy performance on Friday was a solid first step. And it's a vital one not just for Rossi himself, but in creating some interest in the US ahead of the country's return to the calendar later this year.
Certainly, Rossi, 20, looks the part. He is like most (but not all) young American drivers who try their luck in Europe, already very accomplished when interviewed, and those clean-cut looks will inevitably be vital if corporate America is to get behind him.