Last year American fans in F1 had a 24 hour period of hope. Despite the collective loathe of pay drivers on the grid, there was news that the sole U.S. based driver anywhere near the pinnacle of motorsport, Alexander Rossi, was set to drive for Caterham in Austin. Social media lit up as Western F1 fans finally had a “hometown” son to root for. Well our hopes were dashed shortly after, with the unsurprising announcement that Caterham was no more – forced into administration along with Marussia, and unable to make the fly-away races.
Those of us here in the TJ13 towers, and many others around the world, suggested that it was a truly missed opportunity for the commercial rights holder. Bernie failed to capitalize on the social media buzz, and failing to “help” the two bankrupt teams in a way that they would be able to at least compete in the closing races. The American market has been tough for F1 to crack since the debacle in Indianapolis, and this was a PR opportunity that does not come along very often.
Well sometimes you get two chances.
Financially insecure Manor has announced today that Alexander Rossi will drive 5 of the 7 races left in the 2015 season, (Singapore, Japan, US, Mexico, and Brazil. His GP2 commitments conflict with Russia and Abu Dhabi). This no doubt brings Manor a much needed influx of cash.
He is not completely new to the modern V6 turbo cars, having practiced for both Caterham and Marussia last year. The unusually quiet Silly Season has also grumbled rumors of Rossi finding at seat at HAAS.
Gene appeared to downplay that idea by saying in interviews that he wanted two “experienced” drivers. Prior to Manors announcement, Rossi would not have fit this criteria. But now Rossi should have 5 races under his belt, a secure super license, and a ton more data for the engineers to study about his driving skills.
His prospects for a 2016 drive have jumped enormously in the last 24 hours, and HAAS close relationship with Ferrari suddenly gives him an opportunity that many other drivers have fought their whole lives for. Let’s hope he makes the most of it.
Here are Manors official statements:
“Signing Alexander is a continuation of our proud record of providing young drivers with the opportunity to showcase their talents,” said team Principal John Booth.
“We believe he will do a great job and look forward to seeing him race for the first time this weekend in Singapore.
“It is also fantastic news for the sport that it will have an American driver again, particularly with the United States Grand Prix on our horizon and now two races in South America, in Mexico and Brazil.
“I know Alexander is very excited about that and we look forward to providing him with the opportunity to show the American public what he can do.
“While Roberto is obviously disappointed, he understands that this decision is in the long-term interests of the team and we thank him for his professionalism.
“No decision has been made regarding our 2016 driver line-up and we will continue to evaluate our options during the remainder of the season.”
“We are delighted to sign Alexander as race driver. He is widely-regarded as a driver who is on the cusp of an exciting F1 career and his current form in the GP2 Series has done much to reinforce his clear potential.”
In an official statement from the team, Rossi is quoted as saying. “I’m very thankful to race for the Manor Marussia F1 team and for their continued belief in me. I’ve been prepared for this opportunity for quite a while now.
“Many will know from 2014 that the team and I already have a strong relationship and there’s a bit of unfinished business for me here.
“This is a small F1 team that has been through so much. They exemplify passion and true strength of character, and their comeback this season is extraordinary. I’m honoured to be part of this legacy and their continued growth and success.”
**Updated 19:00 GMT** TD