California’s Alexander Rossi spent the last six years working his way up the European open-wheel ladder, reaching Formula 1 as a test and reserve driver for the Caterham and Marussia teams.
Upon his arrival Europe, Rossi embarked on a season of IFM followed by a year in GP3, two seasons of World Series by Renault 3.5 and he just completed two years in GP2, giving the experienced-beyond-his-years 23-year-old a wealth of knowledge in some of the toughest open-wheel categories. With an impressive foundation in place, Rossi has set his sights on a new target, and tells RACER he’s shifted his plans to race in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
“I left America when I was 16, went to Europe, and the focus and drive was to reach Formula 1 and become a Grand Prix driver. That focus never wavered,” he said. “Actually, it was a strange realization at Circuit of The Americas last year when I did [Free Practice 1] with the Caterham F1 team that it was my first time in an open-wheel car in America since I left at the end of 2008. Now I’ve come back to the U.S. and I’m concentrating my efforts on IndyCar next year.”
A number of American drivers have gone to Europe to pursue Grand Prix glory over the last decade, but few have demonstrated Rossi’s level of commitment and staying power. With that journey reaching a turning point, Rossi is now determined to forge a career at home.
“In a way, we completed the task of getting to Formula 1. No, I didn’t take a Grand Prix start, but people may or may not be aware of the fact that I was called to race for Marussia five times this year and for circumstances that were out of my control–and financial reasons that were in the news, it didn’t work out. The trust and faith the team placed in me and Formula 1 placed in me as an American was always there, but with financial issues rendering two teams inoperable and four seats vaporizing, landing a seat has become very difficult,” he said.
“For 2015, I’m very excited about the prospects in IndyCar, and I’m not the first person to say it’s some of the best racing on the planet. It’s something I’m working to make happen every day, and I’m looking forward to being part of a successful campaign.”
With F1 becoming a difficult place to secure a full-time ride, Rossi began actively pursuing IndyCar opportunities a few months ago and has been proactive throughout the process.
“I have been speaking with IndyCar teams for a while now, and have made multiple trips to Indianapolis to hold meetings about next season,” he revealed. “There have been some positive things to come from those meetings, and some things are moving forward, but there are still a lot of boxes that need to be ticked to finalize everything.
“I want to be in a competitive car, and after coming up the European ladder and being able to win races in all the championships I competed in, I feel I’m ready to do the job at home and compete straight away.”
Rossi started racing open-wheel cars throughout the country at the age of 13, but like many drivers making their way over from Europe, oval racing will present a new challenge.
“All of the experience racing in GP2, being able to win there, and all of the F1 testing will help me right away in road racing here, and when it comes to ovals, I have no preconceived notions that my experience will translate. It will definitely be a new frontier for me, but racing drivers will figure out whatever they need to figure out when something new is put in front of them. It just takes time, and it’s actually something I can’t wait to get into,” he explained.
“I have a lot of confidence in being right on it with the road races, and after working with F1 teams the last few years, I’m confident I would be of value with the new aero kits coming out and all the development that’s entailed with their introduction. On top of being able to extract a lot out of the car, the level of detail that’s required in Europe with feedback, the precision that’s required on and off the track, and the work ethic required would relate directly to racing in IndyCar next year.”
Rossi also reiterated his focus and intent on landing in IndyCar.
“While Europe and Formula 1 is something that will always be on my radar, I am excited about getting involved in a new project and will put everything I can into being successful in the IndyCar Series,” he confirmed.
More news regarding Rossi’s plans could emerge in the next few weeks.