The slender young man with movie star good looks and a serene demeanor may be the best American motorsports star you’ve never heard of. Yet, Alexander Rossi is poised to follow in the footsteps of U.S. legends Phil Hill and Mario Andretti.
But those American F1 glory days have been in racing’s rearview mirror for some years now.
Though only 24 years old, Rossi is no newcomer. His father, Pieter Rossi, also a racecar driver, introduced Alexander to karting when he was 10. By the time the Californian was 16, Rossi had relocated to Europe to pursue his passion of becoming an F1 driver.
At 18, he joined the Caterham F1 team as a test driver, going on to be a reserve driver with Caterham (then Marussia), ready at a moment’s notice to step in for the team’s principal drivers.
With a sharp eye for what’s needed to succeed, Rossi has been working the long game in his bid to capture an F1 driver’s seat. He started this season with a renewed focus on the GP2 Series, the official support race of F1, driving for the well-known Spanish outfit Racing Engineering. This course has been a recipe for success for many of F1’s most successful drivers, including Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton.
“GP2 has always been the premier feeder series into Formula One,” Rossi explained. “If you look at the F1 grid, more than half the drivers have come out of GP2.”
Rossi was the only American racing in GP2, and performed well. (GP2 has a similar schedule structure, point system, and set of car requirements as F1. With the exception of three events, the GP2 races are held at F1 circuits, providing drivers with valuable experience.)
Then, in mid September, came the announcement that Rossi would drive for Manor Marussia in five of the remaining seven F1 races this season. At the time of writing, Rossi had taken the wheel in the Singapore and Japanese races. Due to his GP2 commitments, he will miss the Russian grand prix, next taking to the F1 circuit in Austin, at the United States Grand Prix.
An American driver in F1 ends the long drought since Scott Speed raced for Toro Rosso in 2007. Mario Andretti, the track ambassador for COTA and last American to win a Grand Prix (1978), has royal status among F1 fans at his home circuit. One can only imagine the reaction to a drought-ending U.S. driver at Austin’s own Circuit of The Americas.
Alexander Rossi is ready to find out what that’s like.