Last weekend in Melbourne we caught up with Caterham test and reserve driver Alexander Rossi to ask about his pathway to F1, and also about his new role in the team.
This weekend here in Malaysia, we got another chance to have an exclusive chat with him about last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, and his hopes and ideas for the future.
How did you see the team’s performance in Australia?
Disappointing. We went into it knowing that it was going to be very close between Marussia and us; but in the end we weren’t expecting it to be the weekend that it was. We know that it is going to be very difficult for us until we get to Barcelona, where we have a very big update coming, but so will everyone else, so you have to be realistic with that. The team is just doing what we can with the tools that we have available, and putting all the eggs into the same basket, with respect to the Barcelona update, while also concentrating primarily on the design of the 2014 car. This year’s car is basically the 2012 car, and all of our resources are going into the design of the 2014 car. So while there are still some hopes for the Barcelona update, most of the hope is on the 2014 car where the big leap may come.
How much input can you have during a race weekend while managing your own ambitions to find a Formula 1 drive?
To be perfectly honest, until I am driving the car there is not much I can do as I haven’t driven an F1 car at the two tracks we have been to so far. So it is very difficult for me to be able to relate to the drivers and discuss specific corners and so on. I think when we get to Bahrain where I have driven before, and the fact that I have driven the current car, it will be much easier. One area where I have been assisting is in the development of the teams simulator, obviously it is important to have the simulator as close to reality as possible. I have been tasked with that as the race drivers are of course off doing important things.
Obviously Ma Qing Hua will have the chance to drive the car in Friday practice in China, will you have a similar opportunity at the US Grand Prix later in the year?
I will definitely be diving in Austin. I will be driving in a lot of the Friday practice sessions this year, in a similar way to Valterri Bottas last year, which is great for me in order to learn what F1 is all about and to try and make myself a permanent fixture in the paddock. It will be special to drive in Austin this year. It was hard to miss out last year, but obviously with the position the team was in in the championship, it was not realistic for me to drive from a sporting perspective.
RF1: What is the rivalry like between you and Ma? Obviously you are both fighting for a drive in F1, is that something you think of at all?
Not at all. I met him for the first time in Australia. He’s a nice guy, I have nothing against him. If he has any questions about the GP2 car or anything like that I would be happy to assist, as would Geido as he has had a lot of time in those cars. But at the end of the day we all work for the team and it will be great to see him in the car in Shanghai and he has driven there before so I’m sure he’ll do a fine job.
How much are you hoping that F1 car penetrate the US market? Obviously they are quite NASCAR centric over there.
Yeah they are. It is a massive step in the right direction to have NBC covering the races there. At the same time Americans are very patriotic and they like to have something that they can get behind and believe in, and until there is a successful American driver they are not going to be that into it. You can see what Lance Armstrong did for the world of cycling in America, but at the same time you need to be representing the country well. So even if I did get a race drive, they probably wouldn’t take much notice until there are some results. If that happened then hopefully one day we could have an American team as there is no reason why not given the technology we have available.
You grew up racing in America, have you ever thought about say IndyCar racing if things didn’t work out in F1?
Never. My goal and focus has always been F1. And I’ve never had an interest in IndyCar. Not because there’s anything I don’t like about it, its just that I’ve always watched F1. I’ve never been to an IndyCar race, but I have been to a lot of Champ Car races in the early to mid 1990s and to me that was even better than F1. If the Champ Car series still existed then I would prefer to race in that over F1, but not the current IndyCar series.
There is to be a second F1 race in the US next year, but would you consider the Austin race to be your home race given the proximity to your home state of California?
No I would consider them both a home race and it would be a pretty big deal. It would be very special to be able to fly the American flag on home soil. It would be great to have three races in America as the country is big enough to support it. If that will ever happen, I don’t know. With the New Jersey race coming on, Americans will be blown away by just how different those to races will be.
RF1: How difficult is it for a US driver to break into F1?
AR: It is difficult because so much of the focus in on NASCAR and IndyCar, so the amount of people striving for F1 is narrow and the actual number of people that are good enough to break into F1 is therefore even less.
We again offer our sincerest thanks to the Caterham F1 Team for their assistance in making this interview possible. Images via Author (© RichardsF1.com) and Corbis Images.