Andretti-Herta’s new hire Alexander Rossi says he learned a lot at IndyCar’s Phoenix test despite not driving, and he’s eager for his first test at Sebring on Tuesday.
Rossi told the assembled media at Phoenix International Raceway: “I've never been to an oval before and never driven the car, so I'm just trying to learn as much as I can and get to know the people and how they work and operate.
"It's a little bit different than what I'm used to, so it's good to have an idea before I get in the car for the first time.”
The former Manor Formula 1 racer watched much of the Friday test action from the Phoenix spotters’ stand, along with his IndyCar race strategist and car co-owner Bryan Herta, and also Tom German, his new race engineer.
He said: “It's a very interesting perspective to be up top, and to see the different approaches that you can take into a corner. From watching on video or just watching from pit lane, it all looks very similar, but when you get up high, it's a very different perspective, so that was good to be able to see the different ways that you can approach the corners.
“I'm excited about it,” continued Rossi, who had his seat fitting at Andretti Autosport on Tuesday. “It's a whole new experience and a new journey, and I don't really know what to expect, so I'm going into it with a completely open mind.
“I’m going to rely on the experience that I have around me, not only in Bryan [Herta] and Michael [Andretti] but also in my three teammates. Obviously they've had a lot of time on ovals and have been very successful, so I have a very good platform in order to be able to come out of the box in a strong position.”
Confident of learning tracks and cars
IndyCar has relaxed the rules on in-season testing for 2016, and so Rossi is expected to be able to test on all the ovals and permanent road courses before a race weekend. However, he observed that he’s also not worried about learning the street courses, on which testing is impossible.
“You know, the championships I've raced at in the past, there's really only a 30-minute practice session,” he observed, “so to have the practice that IndyCar does on race weekends is far more than I've ever had.
"So I'm very used to having to go out right away and kind of be on it. I think the biggest adaptation is going to come on the ovals.”
Rossi also expressed confidence in swiftly learning how to get the best from IndyCar’s Dallara DW12.
“I think the car is very similar to things I've driven before,” he said. “The power numbers are similar, I've driven plenty of turbocharged engines… and I think the Firestone tires are going to be quite a step forward from things I've driven in the past!
“So I think the car actually will be something that I'm able to get on top of pretty quickly.”
No set plan for Sebring
Rossi will get his first IndyCar test along with fellow series rookie, Spencer Pigot of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, at Sebring next Tuesday. He will then stay on to test alongside his teammates and all the teams and drivers on the Wednesday, but says there is no set plan.
“I think it's more about just getting some seat time,” he said. “From what I've heard, it's difficult to practice anything like pit stops on that track just because pit lane is what it is. And because it's such a short lap, race simulations are a little bit challenging.
“So I think the test will be about fine tuning the car and establishing a baseline setup for St. Pete. Then, once we're there, we can do a little bit more of the race weekend stuff like practicing pit stops and doing the longer runs."
Asked if there were any venues other than Indianapolis Motor Speedway he was particularly looking forward to, Rossi promptly replied: “Long Beach – I've never raced in California, where I'm from, so that'll be nice to be able to have friends and family come and finally see me drive.
“And on top of that, Road America. I had a lot of very good experiences there back in Skip Barber and Formula BMW, and I love that track. It's one of the classics, and I'm very glad that IndyCar is returning there this year.”