The next few years are big ones for Formula 1’s attempts to re-establish itself in the United States with the scheduled arrivals of Austin, and then New Jersey, on the calendar and so it is fitting that at least one American driver is back around the F1 scene for 2012, after Caterham confirmed Alexander Rossi as their official test driver for the new season.
Rossi joined the team’s young driver development programme last year and tested the then Team Lotus-branded car on one day of last November’s young driver test in Abu Dhabi, having already competed for the sister GP2 team in the non-championship GP2 final at the Yas Marina Circuit.
Caterham say the 20-year-old from California will drive in some Friday first practice sessions, a duty he will share with Dutchman Giedo van der Garde – who was named as the team’s reserve driver last month – and complete regular stints in the team’s simulator. In order to keep his racing instincts sharp, it was also confirmed today Rossi will remain in the World Series by Renault and drive for the Arden team which has recently linked up with Caterham.
Rossi said: “I am absolutely delighted that we have been able to make this dual announcement today. My goal to be in Formula 1 is one step closer after being signed as Test Driver for Caterham F1 Team. I want to thank Tony Fernandes, Kamarudin Meranun and Riad Asmat for their trust in me and long term commitment to my career. The Caterham F1 Team support, coupled with the efforts of my management and investors, has brought my goal of reaching an F1 race seat one step closer.”
Tony Fernandes hinted of bigger things to come for Rossi at Caterham when in the announcement he said the 20-year-old was “key figure in our long-term plans, and the investment we are making in him now will help him make the most of the natural talent he has at his disposal”. He added: “We see 2012 as an important year for Alexander, as he will be combining a full calendar in World Series by Renault, a championship he has a very good chance of winning, with his Test Driver role, and giving him the chance to take part in FP1 gives him the platform from which he can grow into an even bigger F1 role.”
Conveniently for both parties, the Formula Renault 3.5 Series will have been completed by the time of the inaugural grand prix in Austin, Texas in mid-November and Rossi’s almost certain appearance on the opening morning of track action there is likely to be welcomed by the organisers given the recent current dearth of American drivers in F1.