Formula Renault 3.5

Rossi’s American Dream

5 Mins read
Alexander Rossi (Photo Credit: Renault Sport)

Alexander Rossi (Photo Credit: Renault Sport)

Pulling up a chair in one of Milton Keynes' many Starbucks outlets, Alexander Rossi is looking refreshed.

Sipping on a chilled still water certainly reflects his current demeanour, as Rossi looks re-energized from an extended Christmas break with his family and friends back at his home in California.

Its Friday 9th March, what is to be a pivotal day in the career of a young American who was almost bullied out of his first appearance in European single-seater racing.

Still only at the tender age of 20, Rossi has just been signed as Caterham F1's test driver for 2012 yet vividly remembers the moment his career in motorsport was nearly threatened.

“My first race in Europe was at the end of 2007 in the Formula BMW World Finals in Valencia and I had never competed in a European race before as I had never left the States,” explains Rossi.

“After being fairly successful in Formula BMW America, I rolled up and was absolutely shocked to find the level of aggression for positions that really did not even matter, like 12th. I was speechless.

Alexander Rossi, Formula BMW USA (Photo Credit:

Success in Formula BMW America brought Rossi to Europe

“My Dad looked at me and he was like 'Yeah? Well push back'.

“I had never thought of that because in the States it is just not allowed; you are allowed one move to defend and it is very strict in terms of blocking.

“Coming over to what is basically a free for all for every position was a big wake up call so I took Valencia as a learning experience and from that day forward I told myself that I was never going to get pushed around again.”

Described commonly by Eurosport's Tom Gaymor as 'tigerish' typifies this alteration in Rossi's racing temperament; 110 overtakes alone in 2010 where Rossi competed in the inaugural GP3 season is another revealing indication.

“I am not afraid to race people let's put it that way,” he says.

Rossi is one of many ambitious North American racers crossing the Atlantic Ocean in pursuit of Formula One glory.

He attended his first race meeting with his father, Pieter, at the age of three at Laguna Seca and after regularly attending the Champ Car meetings at the Monterey circuit, Rossi decided it was time he had a go.

For his 11th Birthday, Pieter took him to Las Vegas to attend a three-day Karting school which he fondly describes as 'the coolest thing in the world'.

“I did three days in the go kart and it was something that I was so fascinated with.

“It was so cool to me how you were able to drive a machine and push it to the limits and that is something you get addicted to because you are never doing it perfectly.

“You are always searching for that perfect lap, constantly improving yourself and the car which becomes addictive.

“It is very annoying and stressful at times but at the end of the day it is something that I love to do and I would not change it for anything.”

Rossi heads into 2012 after a campaign that caught many admiring glances throughout the motor racing fraternity.

In his rookie season in Formula Renault 3.5 for Fortec Motorsports, Rossi took two victories en route to third in the championship, where he will remain for 2012 in the Arden Caterham team as part of his affiliation with the Caterham Young Driver programme.

“I love that championship and I love the people involved,” says Rossi.

“For me it is becoming increasingly obvious that more and more Formula One teams are becoming interested in WSR rather than GP2.

“Red Bull have been setting the trend for that in the past four or five years.

“WSR is the place that they want their drivers to grow and develop and I think more and more people are beginning to realise that. I think this year will be the strongest year yet.”

His successful 2011 culminated in an F1 test in Abu Dhabi with Caterham F1 and he credits the WSR category for 'his best year'.

Alexander Rossi, F1 Young Driver Test (Photo Credit:

Rossi's 2011 ended with a test behind the wheel of the Caterham F1 car in Abu Dhabi

However it is not the only time he has been behind the wheel of a Grand Prix car; his victory in the Formula BMW final of 2008 sealed an F1 test with race winning outfit BMW Sauber at just 17.

“Winning that final was the only time I have actually cried in a race car,” recalls Rossi.

“After winning that race, I was very emotional because we had so many obstacles to overcome that weekend and as an American to win that event against the best junior drivers in the world at that time was very special for me.

“My mother and father have been with me every step of the way and they were at the F1 test.

“At 17, I had only been racing for five years and it showed that the work that we had put in was paying off but it also reminded us that there was still a very long way to go.

“Driving an F1 car for the first time was interesting.

“I had done about two days of GP2 testing before so that I would have time in a bigger and quicker car.

“Honestly, the shock of it was not the speed of the car or the braking but more how well made the cars were.

“Even something as simple as driving down the pit lane and how well the clutch worked was amazing.

“Even though the track was bumpy and you were going over kerbs, the car felt as if it were on glass; perfectly smooth.

“That was amazing for me because it gave you an unprecedented amount of confidence to just push the car harder and harder.

“You really got to feel what it was like to drive an F1 car on the limit and it gave me incredible motivation after that test to get back into an F1 car as soon as possible.”

In spite of Rossi's exploits in European motorsport, competing for bulletins and exposure back in the USA has remained limited.

Alexander Rossi (Photo Credit:

Rossi: "I can invisage myself in an F1 seat"

Although the USA has been without a World Champion since Mario Andretti in 1978, a Grand Prix on the calendar for the first time since 2007 in Austin could signal a change.

“American motorsport is so dominated by Nascar and IndyCar that Formula One does go under the radar,” says Rossi.

“I do not blame the US fan base for that because there is no American team, driver or race.

“It is something that needs to change because America is, at the end of the day, the biggest market in the world.

“Americans are very patriotic people so they will be thrilled with the fact that they have an F1 race to go and watch but if they do not have anyone to support then they will not be impressed.”

Could Rossi fill the void?

“Well I can envisage myself in an F1 seat, for sure.”

One thing is for sure; he certainly will not be bullied out of it.

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