Alexander Rossi, age 21, is making a name for himself in Formula One. He is currently the reserve driver for Caterham F1 Team and the only American to hold an F1A Super License. The Californian had his debut at the Singapore Grand Prix this September (he qualified at 4th place but mechanical issues kept him from racing). When he’s not touring with the circuit, he resides in the UK and works on his college courses online. Due to his busy schedule, AFM connected with Rossi via email.
How did you get started in F1? I was introduced to racing at a very young age by my father [Pieter Rossi]. When I was 10 years old, he took me to a karting school in Las Vegas as a birthday present and after three days in a go-kart, I fell in love with the sport and knew that one day I wanted to compete in F1. The journey started then and there, and it took a major step forward when I left California when I was sixteen to go and prove myself over in Europe. I received my [F1A] Super License (which allows me to compete in an F1 race) when I was 17 and joined Caterham F1 Team as a test driver when I was 18.
Do you feel that Americans have a harder time than Europeans working up through the ranks to succeed in Formula One racing? I feel that the most difficult aspect for any American wanting to reach F1 is the fact that, in order to be successful, you must commit your life to European motorsport. This means moving overseas, working your way up through the junior ladder in Europe, and fully immersing yourself into a different environment. If you can do that and win in Europe, then there is no reason that you will not have just as good of an opportunity as everyone else.
You graduated early from high school—what was it like, being a teenager, working hard at school, and professionally racing? It was certainly not the easiest of times, but one that I have become very grateful for. So many people who I was racing with [while] growing up didn't make education their priority and they are now paying the consequences. From an obvious aspect, it was always a good idea to have a backup plan if racing weren't to work out; however, I have realized that it is highly beneficial in this sport to have an educated background due to the people and corporations that you come across on a week-to-week basis.
How has your family supported you throughout your career? My family has been with me every day of this journey for the past twelve years. We started together in go-karts and, now, here we are standing on the doorstep of the pinnacle of motorsport. I will openly admit that I would have had to stop racing a long time ago if it hadn't been for the continual dedication and perseverance of not only my parents but my grandparents as well.
Americans are notorious for speaking only English. Do you speak other languages? How is communication in this multi-national sport? Unfortunately, I do only speak English. I suppose the reason for this is because it is the main language in motorsport and I have never been in an environment where I have been required to speak another language. With that being said, it is something that I would like to do in order to better answer questions like this.
Tell us about your next steps toward becoming an F1 driver. This is quite a complicated sport in the sense that it is not purely performance based. So I cannot easily say that if A, B, or C were to happen, then I would be guaranteed a seat. I am at the final step of the ladder, if you will, and I am just focusing on delivering results every time I get into the car. If I continue to do this and have a little bit of luck fall my way, then I fully believe that I will be in a full-time race seat in the near future.
Are there other up-and-coming young Americans in motorsports who you recommend watching—someone who, in a few years, may be poised to enter into F1? Conor Daly. He has already competed in the Indy 500, he has raced in Europe for the past three years, and he has won races. Plus he is a really good dude. What more do I need to say?
Austin Fit Magazine is a health and wellness magazine, and we are always interested in the types of workouts that our profiled athletes do. How do you keep in shape with your grueling race regimen? What do you do during the off-season to stay fit? Most people overlook the physical element of motorsport, especially Formula One. It is one of the most demanding environments that one can be asked to operate in due to incredibly high g-forces and temperature. To be able to withstand the extremes of this, training is at the forefront of everyone’s program. I am at a specialized facility in England every day and, when I am on the road, I keep the program going for continuity. The closest comparison that I can give you would be a CrossFit-style approach, with a very high emphasis on reaction drills and mental stress testing.
Give your thoughts on COTA and Formula One in the U.S. First of all, I think that COTA was the perfect environment for the return of F1 to the U.S. Last year was a massive success, not only for the fans, but also for the teams as everyone rated Austin as their new favorite event of the year. However, in order for F1 to really reach the American market and become a "household sport," there needs to be not only an American driver but a successful one. We as Americans are such patriotic people that, at the end of the day, we are not going to want to watch a German or British driver win every race—we want to see the Stars and Stripes fighting at the top. If this happens, then I truly believe that Formula One will have a permanent home in the U.S.
Is there anything that you’d like for our Texas readers to know about you in particular? Austin is without a doubt one of my favorite cities in the U.S. I have visited quite a few times outside of the Grand Prix weekend and every time I get the chance to spend time there, I am reminded of how amazing it is. So a big thank you to all you there who keep it weird.