When Alexander Rossi left the Caterham F1 and GP2 teams, a few assumed that his aim to reach Formula 1 had hit a brick wall, but the American quickly found his feet and joined the Marussia F1 Team just prior to the Hungarian Grand Prix as third and reserve driver.
“At the time we made the decision to leave Caterham, Marussia F1 Team were very keen to begin discussions for the Reserve Role,” said Rossi to The Checkered Flag. “Everything fell into place nicely as they needed a Reserve Driver and my experience the past 3 years at Caterham served each of us well. I am very happy to be a part of this team; it feels like family.
“My role as Official Reserve Driver is to support the team as much as possible and assist the development and progress of the team and the car. With my experience in Caterham I’ve been able to slip into the team quite easily and get straight to work. The Marussia F1 Team are currently 9th in the Championship and progressing well.”
Rossi admitted that joining another Formula 1 team so soon after departing from Caterham was essential for his career development, and felt immediately at home with Marussia.
“It was very important, and a vital step in my journey to becoming a full time Formula 1 driver,” insisted Rossi. “My Marussia F1 Team affiliation was very natural and I felt right at home immediately.
“I wouldn’t say I’m going a different route, I’m with a new team and have taken a step forward in my career. I’m very optimistic about my F1 future. The long-term plan has always been to be immersed within a team before taking the final step to a full time race seat. I’m in my 3rd year as a reserve driver and I’m very prepared for an F1 race seat, on and off track.”
Rossi was so close to getting his Formula 1 debut at Spa-Francorchamps after initially being announced to take the place of regular Marussia driver Max Chilton, and the American was able to run in the Marussia during free practice for the first time, but the Briton was back in the seat for the second free practice session. Rossi was obviously disappointed to miss out on the race seat, but felt the experience in Belgium confirmed to the American that he is ready to be a fully-fledged Formula 1 driver.
“As the Official Reserve Driver it is your role to be able to step up, and step down, in a moment’s notice,” described Rossi. “Of course I was disappointed not to race – I wouldn’t be human otherwise! However, I’m pleased that the team were able to trust and call upon me when needed. If anything the experience has confirmed how ready I am to be in Formula 1 now.
“It was a great experience, and despite all the events happening around me I was happy to get a feel for their car, the Ferrari power unit and all the other new systems. My role is to help and support the team in any way I can and the first FP1 session went well, with us completing the programme we set out to do.
“The aim is always to be behind the wheel as much as I can, but I’m not in a position to confirm running time at the moment.”
Rossi looks back at his time at Caterham fondly, and admits it was only timing that saw him leave the team that gave him his first opportunities to run in an F1 car.
“I have only good memories to take from Caterham and many great relationships,” reflected Rossi. “I’m grateful for the opportunities I had while I was there. I’ve driven every F1 car they’ve built and have experienced many aspects of Formula 1 during my time there.
“It’s true I’ve been with Caterham for many years now and a lot of good came from my affiliation at Caterham. With the new management and changes of ownership it was the right time to move on with my career.”
Rossi was in the unique position to be able to differentiate between the Caterham and Marussia F1 cars of 2014, having ran in the free practice session at Montreal for the green team and at Spa for the Red and Black team.
“Each F1 manufacturer designs and builds a different car each year,” explained Rossi. “That is what makes F1 very unique and special. It’s the job of an F1 driver to adapt, learn quickly and prepare as a professional. The Marussia F1 Team car is a completely different car from the Caterham. They’re different yes, but I adapted within a few laps.”
Rossi has been linked to the newly formed Haas F1 Team that aims to join the F1 grid in 2016, and while he appreciates this association and would be keen on taking this route, his main aim remains to be onto the F1 grid sooner rather than later.
“My aim is to race in Formula 1 and add value to the sport I’ve spent my life working towards,” insisted Rossi. “The timing is right for an American to be in F1. If that is with an American team, then that would be extremely special. However I feel that the amount of support I have from America means the timing to enter F1 in the near future is perfect.
“We have athletes representing America in pretty much every international sport, but not yet Formula 1. It would be great for this to happen.”