Some Formula 1 teams have already announced the names of the drivers that they will be fielding for the Young Driver Test at the Silverstone circuit in the UK July 17-19. Other will likely be naming which of their junior drivers will be getting a shot in their current cars as well as which of their race drivers will participate in the Pirelli tire test soon, and if Caterham F1 Team doesn’t put Alexander Rossi on the track for the Young Driver Test it will be a foolish move.
Rossi is currently the only American driver with an FIA Super License, and as such has the best chance of becoming the next American driver in an F1 race seat. Caterham currently has two young drivers in their race seats; second year driver Charles Pic and rookie Giedo van der Garde. There will potentially be a lot of seat and team shuffling before the 2014 season gets underway, and a higher tier team could look to snatch one of Caterham’s drivers to fill a hole. If Toro Rosso loses one of their race drivers to Red Bull Racing as a replacement for the departing Mark Webber I wouldn’t be surprised to see them reach out to Pic.
Even if neither Pic nor van der Garde is poached by another team, they may lose their race seats to another wheel man looking to move up. Caterham has not shied away using their test drivers during practice sessions in 2013, which means that they are likely willing to promote one of their young stars for the 2014 season. That coupled with their current last place standing in the constructor’s points means that Caterham needs to be willing to make changes. If I was making the calls at Caterham I’d be looking to get Rossi in a race seat as soon as I could for a number of reasons.
Besides his obvious talent as a racing driver, Rossi’s nationality is highly marketable for Caterham. Formula One has been actively trying to expand its presence in North America as of late with 2012’s addition of the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas and rumors are constantly swirling about adding another US race as early as 2014. While I don’t think a second US race will take place that soon the fact that the talks are happening and aren’t just flashes in the pan should encourage American F1 fans, which is a largely untapped fan base.
Americans love racing of all sorts, but for the longest time a lack of exposure in the US kept F1 from growing there. With the USGP on the schedule, US fans now have two races per year that are fairly easily accessible when you count the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal. In addition to that, F1’s media deal with NBC and NBC Sports has greatly expanded the sports exposure in America. Now all Formula 1 needs to seal the deal and reel in the American fan base is a home team for them to cheer on: an American driver.
If Caterham were to give Rossi a race seat they would instantly gain a huge following in the United States. The team already has a recognizable American company as their sponsor in General Electric and that paired with a US wheel man would give them a huge advantage over other teams. I would wager that you would see a lot more people wearing green and yellow at those two North American GPs if Rossi were a race driver.
Rossi, along with fellow Caterham test driver Qing Hua Ma, is likely already one the list of drivers that Caterham will put on the circuit at Silverstone. If they don’t give Rossi a drive they are fools, and if their smart and Rossi performs well, they will make him their top candidate for promotion to a race seat.