Catching up with Alexander Rossi on his way up to F1
I remember Antonio Ferrari, who Rossi drove for in Formula BMW USA, called me over during the Champ Car weekend in Denver, Colorado about five years ago and he said, in his heavy Italian accent “Cipolloni, let me tell you about this young boy driving for me, Alexander Rossi. He’s the best I have ever had drive for me.
And so we have been following his career closely from that day forward and indeed this articulate young man who hails from Grass Valley, California but lives much of his time in Europe, has impressed at every step up the ladder on his way to F1.
And he’s almost there.
And the rest of America is starting to take notice as well.
We caught up with Alexander at a FOTA meeting event in Manhattan on Monday and had the opportunity to do this interview:
AR1.com: Alexander, thanks for taking the time to speak with us today. How confident are you that you will make it onto the F1 grid in 2013 and do you feel you’re ready. But more importantly, is the financial backing there?
Rossi: No, it’s not a money issue. I am very confident of being on the grid in 2013. I’ve been a reserve test driver this year. You know it’s giving me a chance to study, learn and fill in all the missing holes I need to succeed in F1. So yeah that is my goal and I think it is attainable.
AR1.com: Do you feel that in Formula One today you are racing against your teammate or are you racing to win, and what does it take to move up to a better team - a Ferrari or Red Bull?
Rossi: I think you have to start somewhere and most start in a low to mid-level team in F1. So in that case it’s hard to win and you are fighting against your teammate who is your main gauge but it’s good, especially if your teammate has lot of strengths and better experience and gives massive feedback. That is going to work for you if you are able learn from your teammate and eventually try to beat them.
AR1.com: Somebody asked a question before in the audience about limited testing time and it being so technical. You had said that while you are gaining some experience as a Friday driver, in the end is that really enough to prepare you for Formula One?
Rossi: Yes, and no It’s the same technical ability to drive the actual race car. The big step in Formula One is really dealing with the external pressures, more so than the actual technical ability to drive a car, which is the same. It has more to do with learning to deal with everything, and a team of that size, and how to establish the relationships, and that’s what I am learning this year. I think everyone driver that comes up from the junior ranks and makes it to the highest level already have the skill sets to drive fast. It’s everything else that you have to learn.
AR1.com: You are about 6-foot tall. Is that a penalty for you so-to-speak in that you might be a little heavier than some of the small guys or is the weight equalization of the cars taking that out of equation?
Rossi: The weight is taken out of the equation now, but obviously I have to work hard to make sure that I am not over the weight limit so I need to work a lot harder and as long as I am below the weight limit there is no disadvantage.
AR1.com: At one time the lighter drivers had the opportunity to move the weight ballast around to improve the handling of the car.
Rossi: That went away with the new regulations which stops the teams from moving all the weight forward. There is only so much you can manipulate the ballast and the goal is to keep the weight as low as possible. So at the end of the day, because of the rules are very strict, it’s not making as much difference as it was.
AR1.com How many more Friday sessions will you get this year?
Rossi: No idea. [Editor’s Note: We hear he will do three more Fridays]
AR1.com Sergio Perez was kidding around at the question and answer before, he said you told him you would be on the grid in Austin. Is that even realistic at all?
Rossi: I definitely will not be on the grid. I do not have a contract to race. There are two race drivers who the team has a contract with for the rest of this year.
AR1.com If you do make it to F1 next year will that be with Caterham? Are you contracted with them?
Rossi: My commitment and my contract is with Caterham.
AR1.com Do the current driver contracts terminate this year or do they go on?
Rossi Yes. Both drivers’ contracts end this year.
AR1.com: So there is a window for you to possibly move in?
Rossi: Yes, but they have the option to renew of course so we’ll see.
AR1.com: Have hard has it been getting American firms interested in sponsoring you?
Rossi: It’s nearly impossible. To get corporate sponsors from the USA, I have had investors help me.
AR1.com: Did you say investors? So you sold shares of your future to investors? Are a lot of drivers doing that today?
Rossi: Yeah. I mean for example Sebastian Vettel had Red Bull as his investor and he has to pay them back on the way up.
AR1.com: It’s quite interesting. Sounds a lot like what Justin Wilson did years ago.
AR1.com Is it realistic to think you could win the Formula FR3.5 series by Renault this year, or is the Arden team too inexperienced?
Rossi: I am going to continue the championship with the goal of winning the championship. It has been a bit of a struggle with Arden because of their inexperience, but we have a three-week gap before the next week and we are definitely going to try to improve the car a little bit. I mean we’re doing everything possible but we are competing against teams with six years experience in the championship.
AR1.com: Is there a possibility you might be back in the FR 3.5 series again next year? Or would you try to do GP2? Why did you choose FR 3.5 over GP2 this year?
Rossi: It’s only June. What happens next year - I have no idea. I like what Renault has done with the FR 3.5 championship, it is great, and I think the car is very impressive and I think it’s about the same as GP2 in performance and even faster in some circumstances. At the end of the day I think it (FR 3.5) is the better of the two championship and the amount of money that it takes to run is much less..
AR1.com: A lot of people I think running GP2 puts you in front of the F1 teams a little bit more in terms of being there race weekend after race weekend. Is that an advantage with GP2? .
Rossi: Not really because when you look at the F1 teams, their junior drivers are in FR 3.5.
AR1.com: Alexander, thank you for your time. Best of luck with making it to F1. We’ll be watching.
Rossi: Thank you.
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