Tag Archives: Alexander Rossi

Tavo Hellmund Working on a Manor F1 Team Bid

While looking into a Northern California location for a new Grand Prix Circuit, American developer Tavo Hellmund has been putting together a group to purchase a controlling interest in the Manor F1 team to bring another American Formula 1 team to the grid.  The driver lineup mentioned includes NASCAR’s Dale Earnhardt Jr, and Alexander Rossi, who currently drives for the Manor F1 Team and according to Hellmund, “He has the resume.” in a recent interview with the Austin Statesman-American.

Costs of operating a successful Formula 1 team are high, and Hellmund has tempered expectations adding that, “It would never be our goal to compete with the manufacturer teams. We’re never going to spend $400 million a year like Mercedes, Red Bull, Ferrari and McLaren… but we think you can run it respectably and not be in the red.  I think you can fight for fifth.”

Hellmund added that “Manor Marussia cut a deal to be able to have Mercedes motors next year, which is a step forward as opposed to a year and one-half old Ferrari spec engine,” which is currently run by the team putting them roughly 50 hp down on the current spec engines of other teams.

Timing would be critical for 2016, with diligence and engine to be finalized.  Hellmund gives it until early next year to sort out:  “I think if we get to late January or February, it may be too late, and my partners and I would probably lose interest”.

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Alexander Rossi at the Mexican Grand Prix

Will Stevens and Alexander Rossi at the 2015 Mexican Grand Prix Photo: Sutton Images

Will Stevens and Alexander Rossi at the 2015 Mexican Grand Prix   Photo: Sutton Images

Hours before the Mexican Grand Prix and less than a week after he learned that Manor F1 Team was parting ways with the leaders that brought him on board for his first drive in the sport, Alexander Rossi was once again in the midst of change and instability in his career, now as current Formula 1 driver.   (Read more about Alexander’s journey to Formula 1: Part 1, Part 2)  I asked him about his ability to manage all the rapid changes happening around him this season and his focus on racing.

I’ve focused a lot on compartmentalizing this year, especially in the off season last year when there was the potential that I wasn’t going to be in Europe and I was looking at different options.  So when I got the opportunity to come back to Europe this year and to race in GP2 it was something I was so thankful for I focused on each weekend and enjoying the experience while not letting the thought of what the potential outcome could be dictate how I was performing.  It was just about getting the job done that weekend and taking it one day at a time.  I’ve approached my Formula 1 experience the same way: Friday I need to do certain things, Saturday I have to outqualify my teammate, and Sunday I have to beat him.  I take that at what it is, and I don’t think about Sunday on Friday.  In the same way, I don’t think about my GP2 race in Bahrain in 2 weeks, and this weekend I don’t think about 2016 because I don’t allow myself to do that.

How have you been able to develop that ability?

A lot of that ability to compartmentalize has come from working with a sports psychologist this year, and that’s one of the main things we’ve been focusing on in terms of my development.  I’ve found that when I get into a race car and only have to think about one thing I have to do that day, my performance is better, because my mind isn’t going in a million places.  It especially helps in Formula 1 because there are a lot more things that are going on besides just driving the race car.  To be able to get into the car and not think about the external factors is a big plus for me, personally.  On top of that, I work very closely with my father, who works three jobs.  He’s the master of doing that, so being able to see that on a daily basis, I’m able to learn from him first hand and emulate him as much as I can in my own life.

Managing the risks in a Formula 1 car means understanding what you can control and what you cannot.  This year’s Manor F1 cars currently run last year’s engine spec from Ferrari, considered to be down roughly 50 horsepower to this year’s engines.  Regardless, when you’re racing a Formula 1 car, you’re racing to win, and once you’re in the car, there are things a driver can contribute, as well as the risks and limitations inherent to or outside the car.  I asked Alex how he manages his ability on the track.

The biggest thing I have control over is driving the race car, and it’s my responsibility to get the results on track. In a sport that is very dominated by business, my performance on the track is the primary motivating factor for teams to look at drivers.  For me, that has to be the primary focus at all times.  In a GP2 car, I might be willing to take a bit more risks than I would in the Manor F1 Team car, because a risk in a race environment in a Manor F1 car at the moment won’t get me anything, really, because if I do make something happen on lap 1 of a race, its not going to be sustainable over 71 laps.  If I have a shot at someone into turn 1, is there a point?  Probably not, unless it’s with my team mate.  That changes things a little bit but at the same time its critical for the team to get both cars to the finish.  Everything is a little bit about risk management, and like anything in life, its the same thing I’ve done with my career.

Alexander out qualified his teammate, Will Stevens, and despite a difficult race setup, managed to overtake his teammate today in the closing laps of the Mexican Grand Prix, defeating Stevens for the fourth time in as many races together.  Alex will be on the grid next with Manor F1 Team again at the Brazilian Grand Prix November 15th, and with his GP2 team, Racing Engineering, in Bahrain November 21st.

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An American in Formula 1: Alexander Rossi, part 2

In the second part of my interview with Alexander Rossi, (part 1) we continued to talk more about what it’s like to be American rookie on the grid, and he gave his thoughts on overcoming doubts and how the sport can grow in the United States. 

 

Alexander Rossi FP1 at Circuit of The Americas,   Photo: Sutton Images

Alexander Rossi in FP1 at Circuit of The Americas, Photo: Sutton Images

Q: What is your mindset like as a rookie on the Formula 1 grid?

You arrive here and its like we’re here now, but the day we arrived in Singapore (Alexander’s F1 debut) we had to start proving ourselves, showing that we deserve to be here, and so you’ve really never arrived in this sport unless you’re a Lewis or a Fernando or a Jenson, its when you have enough status in the sport that if you have a bad year, it doesn’t really matter because you’re already a world champion.  For me, it’s not the case, if I have a bad race I have to find a way to recover from that.  So from that standpoint its hard to really enjoy it all the time.  You’re always turning the page, and you keep going, but it’s fun.  As I said before, I’m competitive, so I enjoy it and it’s how I run my life, even away from motorsports. Whether its in the gym or on the track, there’s a target to improve every day, and to be better than the last day.  For me, I love it and its a part of why I love the sport.

Overcoming obstacles has been a consistent theme the past few years for Alexander on his path to driving with Manor F1 Team, even his first ever session as a reserve driver during a grand prix at Circuit of the Americas didn’t happen when the safety helicopter failed to turn up at the beginning of FP1 in 2013.  After that bit of foreshadowing, last year his team failed to turn up at the USGP due to financial pressures, but this year (weather permitting) he’ll be racing on Sunday.

Q:  Now that you’re getting closer to a full time drive, what do you think has sustained you to keep on pushing despite all the setbacks you’ve had?  Sheer momentum?

It wasn’t momentum, because if you look at 2014, we didn’t have any momentum.  If you look at me as a stock value a year ago we were nowhere.  2011 was a solid year in Europe for me, 2012 was horrendous, 2013 wasn’t that great in my opinion but as a rookie in GP2 it was quite a strong year.  So we were going into 2014 with the expectation of winning the championship and I ended up with no points in the first 6 races, which felt like a meltdown.  That team was then sold on and I joined Marussia, where we ended up having to come to terms with what ended up happening in Japan, then showing up in Austin without a drive.  There was no momentum.  It was hard, and thats why the shift to Indycar began to happen, and honestly it was by the grace of God that we got the phone call from Racing Engineering, because we weren’t looking at GP2, and I wasn’t going to go back to GP2 with a noncompetitive team.  But then, that changed.  It was still debate as to whether we were going to go GP2 or take an Indycar deal which was at the time a safer option, because if we went with a championship winning GP2 team and didn’t produce the results, there was nothing to fall back on, and that would make getting a 2016 Indycar ride more difficult.  At the same time, it was like, we’ve worked this hard to get to F1, and to get to F1 you really need to be in GP2, or at least in Europe, and we had come this far, so that was the decision we made.  It all happened in a two week time period, and I went from looking at places to live in Chicago to jumping on a plane to Spain.

Q:  Looking at all the ingredients that go into making the sport more popular in America, an American driver is a key ingredient, and do you see yourself as an ambassador for F1?

I’ve seen myself as a US ambassador for the sport for the past four years now.  The American audience has so many other competing forms of entertainment that Formula 1 has really struggled to break through.  Having the race here has helped dramatically, but then the next step was always, OK, we need an American driver.  We have that now, and the next step is an American team, which we’ll have next year.  All the boxes are being ticked, but still, its not going to become a household sport until either the driver or the team is winning.  The American fanbase will grow, but the person you meet on the street won’t know about Formula 1 until an American is winning.

Q:  What advice can you offer to Americans out at the karting track today with their dads, maybe out of the back of a pickup truck?

I think the biggest thing is have a plan, which is great, but realize its not going to go according to your plan at all.  My 10 year plan when I started out in karting was to be in Formula 1 at 20 years old.  That clearly didn’t happen, I was four years late, but that doesn’t mean you don’t stop.  You keep trying different ways and different avenues and if its something you actually want to do, it is possible.  Everything’s possible, and we’ve proven that when at times it seemed like there was no chance.  When there was a team disappearing from the grid, two cars going away, I started this season with no Formula 1 connections – and now look where we are.  That wasn’t the plan, it just came together.  To be here takes a full commitment also, not just from the driver but from family as well, and mine sacrificed pretty much everything.  It was a group effort from not only my parents but also from my grandmother, and they all believed they could make this happen, and I’d say they’re 95% of the reason why I’m here today.

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