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GP Week : Issue 176
GPWEEK: How did you get into racing? ALEXANDER ROSSI: My dad was a fan. He’d take me to the Champ Car races at Leguna Seca and Monterey since I was three. When I was ten I wanted to go karting. I was enrolled at a karting school in Las Vegas and went from there. Do you follow any other race series, like NASCAR? I’ve never actually followed NASCAR because my focus has always been open-wheel racing, like Formula One. Since karting I’ve kind of had tunnel vision. I follow the US single-seater series, though, like IndyCar, Indy Lights and Star Mazda. I have quite a few friends who are competing in these championships. What was it about Formula One that made you move to Europe and follow that path? I wanted to race the best cars against the best drivers on the world’s best tracks. If you want to show what you’re capable of you need to compete at the highest level, and F1 is definitely the pinnacle of motor sport. What’s your favourite race on the circuit? This one [Austin]. To have Formula One come back to America is great, and up and down the paddock everyone is impressed with the track and the city. Most foreigners, when they think of the US they think of New York, California and Florida. Once people come to Austin, though, and see the environment and feel the atmosphere and the Texan hospitality... I mean, everyone here is loving it. You’ve driven for Caterham in a couple of the official practice sessions on race weekends. Are you disappointed not to be doing so here in front of your home crowd? I’m incredibly disappointed. I was looking for ward to driving here ever since the race was announced. I was told a couple of weeks ago at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that I wouldn’t be driving in the session here in Austin, and I could kind of see it happening when the team slipped to 11th in the FIA Constructors’ Championship. They’re trying to do everything they can to recover that, which means giving race drivers Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov maximum time on track. From a sporting side I see where they’re coming from, but from a marketing and commercial side I think it’s a missed opportunity. What are your career ambitions? What I don’t want to happen is to get into Formula One, be there a year or two, and then disappear. I want to get in and move up the grid and challenge for race wins. I want to be able to represent America in F1 for quite a few years to come, and leave an impression that Americans are able to compete in motor racing at the highest level. Do you think as an American it’s easier or harder to raise sponsorship, which is often so critical to getting a drive, and to be taken seriously by the F1 establishment? I think there was a point where it was harder. In the last few years, though, F1 has migrated to things that it doesn’t have. Since the economy hit the skids F1, like many other businesses, has had to adapt. You see more races now in the Middle East and Asia because that’s where the money is. The big thing that had been missing from the map was the USA. They realize the USA is an important asset, not least because for constructors like Ferrari and Mercedes the US is their biggest car market. For me, I think the timing to get in a race seat is better than ever. Apart from the States, what’s the best place you’ve visited with Formula One? Singapore, without a doubt, is the coolest place I’ve been. The F1 race there is held at night under floodlights, the whole city gets wrapped up in grand prix fever, and because of the strange working hours it’s normal to finish work and go straight to a nightclub. A great place to visit there is the Ku De Ta club on the top floor of the Marina Bay Sands hotel. It looks like a giant oil tanker, and there’s a huge open-air infinity pool up there with breathtaking views of the city. Another hotel I really like is the Westin in Dubai. They have the world’s biggest brunch! It’s literally ten rooms of food, I’ve never seen anything like it. I have spent hours in there! Now the US is getting interested in F1, where would you like to see another race? Being from the West Coast, L.A would be great. Formula One went to Long Beach in the past and was successful. Maybe it needs somewhere more hyped-up, like Las Vegas. F1 needs glitz because it’s such a prestigious sport. We’re hopefully having a race in New Jersey in 2014 just across from Manhattan, which will be absolutely ideal. America is definitely big enough and diverse enough to host more than one grand prix. When will we see you make your F1 race debut? 2014! 5 MINUTES WITH ALEXANDER ROSSI The Caterham F1 reserve driver talks to Adam Hay-Nicholls about making it as an American, his race seat prospects, and his favourite venues 5 MINUTES 18 GPWEEK.com // 18 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: