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While Caterham raised a few eyebrows with their announcement that Andre Lotterer would be driving in this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, Marussia seems to be following wuit with today’s announcement that American Formula 1 hopeful, Alexander Rossi, will be replacing Max Chilton for the race as well:

We’re providing Alexander Rossi with the opportunity to make his Grand Prix debut at this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix in Spa-Francorchamps.

Alexander will race alongside Jules Bianchi, substituting for Max Chilton while contractual issues are resolved.

Alexander joined the Team as Reserve Driver last month, the announcement coming at the Hungarian Grand Prix. He has taken part in a number of Friday morning Free Practice 1 sessions with his previous team but this weekend will see him ‘racing’ a Formula 1 car for the first time.

John Booth │ Team Principal

“Although it was not our intention to offer Alexander the possibility to race this season, in light of the circumstances we are pleased to be providing him with the opportunity to make his Grand Prix debut at this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix in Spa-Franchorchamps. Naturally we hope to resume normal service with respect to our established race driver line-up as soon as possible, but for now we wish Alexander well for the weekend ahead and we look forward to seeing him in action.”

Alexander Rossi │ Reserve Driver

“It goes without saying that I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to race in Formula 1 for the first time and I cannot thank the Marussia F1 Team for the faith they are demonstrating in me. It’s a very big moment for me and there’s a lot to prepare in a short space of time, but on the other hand I have felt ready for this for quite a while now. It is also exciting to be given this opportunity at such a fantastic and historical circuit as Spa-Francorchamps. I can’t wait to drive the MR03 from tomorrow and I hope to reward the team with a solid race weekend.”

It’s an exciting opportunity for the American and his move from Caterham to Marussia came at exactly the right time. We’re not sure what contractual issues the team are having with Max Chilton but it’s usually in a driver’s contract that he gets to drive all grands prix so sitting him out is a big issue.

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An F1 fan since 1972, NC has spent over 25 years in the technology industry and as a CTO, he focuses on technology integration in commercial workspace design, AV systems integration, digital media strategies, technology planning, consulting, speaking, presenting, sales, content strategy, marketing and brand building.
  • ian

    Blimey! Bet max wasn’t expecting that.

    • I can’t imagine he was either. That’s a bit of a surprise…maybe for us and him. :)

      • Chuck C

        *nod* I subscribe to his Facebook feed and he showed a picture of himself and his girlfriend basically labelled “On the way to Spa”.

        But hey, good for Rossi!

        • ian

          Exactly the same here.

  • Chuck C
  • Meowsive Understeer

    “in light of the circumstances” I.e. receiving a large sum of money from Haas Automation.

    • dude

      I hope Haas consider buying Marussia.

  • Happy for Rossi to get the chance, let’s hope he does well.

  • Tom Firth

    Ahh not good for Max. It’s abit worrying whatever happened because it appears very last minute and Max’s statement appears to indicate cashflow issues somewhere, not going to comment from which party because I don’t know but it fairly blunty hints towards that been the issue.

    Best of luck to Alex though all the same, nice to see him finally get an F1 debut. Hope whatever the issue is with regards contracts, it gets sorted soon.

    • Tom, what is your opinion on Rossi’s on-track talent? As you watch and access feeder series info regularly, I’d appreciate your input, either objective of subjective.

      • Tom Firth

        Certainly a strong driver in lower formulae , particularly Formula BMW, winning titles and plaudits. Some wins in GP3, think he was 4th in the title race at the end of the season for GP3 and had a good season in Renault 3.5 coming third following that up.

        The previous few seasons have been really aimed towards securing that F1 drive, alongside working with Caterham’s GP2 team, as presumably part of his agreement with them to test for them. Which to be honest, wasn’t the best in the world. This years been broken up somewhat, as his swap to Marussia after Caterham’s management team changes also resulted in the switch of GP2 teams.

        One thing I will certainly say though is he is incredibly persistent in attempting to achieve his goal of racing in F1. He’s been aiming towards it since 2010 really. He’s also very unlucky. USF1, Caterham, Marussia have all promised him the earth and snatched it away, feel sorry for the guy, because I think he does have talent, if not budget or luck. :(

        • Tom Firth

          By aiming towards it, I mean in a position on the ladder to have some grasp on it to clarify.

        • Thanks Tom. He looked tentative starting out, but seemed to gain confidence as the session progressed. 1.5 seconds to Bianchi is a bunch, but as Chilton was 1.2 down during FP2…

          It’s a baseless comparison, session to session. Just looking for positives in an unfortunate situation for all; Rossi, Chilton, team Marussia all lost out.

          • Tom Firth

            True all did lose out in this situation, be interesting to see what happens next year now too.

    • ian

      I’d be surprised if it was anything other than them want to test him for next season and as max hasn’t scored a point this is the easiest way to do it.

  • Contractual issues may be deeper than just Max. Reposrts that Russian flow of capital may have been switched off due to western sanctions.

    • ian

      Makes sense

  • I don’t know if anyone remembers the USGP from 2013, but Rossi was fastest of all in FP1 when it came to the Caterham vs. Marussia. I have high hopes for him! I”m so excited to see another American on the grid, even if it is in the back of the field! Sorry… My pride is swelling for the time being. Hopefully some crazy magic can happen in Qualifying.

    http://www.formula1.com/results/season/2013/911/7283/

  • Chilton volunteered or was volun-told?

    I mean, it’ll be cool to see Rossi racing at Spa and all, but these “we’re running out of money, it’s time for shennanigans!” shennanigans are depressing.

    • Niyoko

      The shennanigans seem to be the only way Caterham and Marrusia can shake things up. The drivers might not like it, and neither do I as A Kaumi fan, but it’ll be interesting to see what another driver can do in a Caterham or Marrusia. The current drivers aren’t doing much, seeing someone else in the seat will be great to watch and analyze.

  • There is much we aren’t being told. I’m happy for Rossi, with luck he could land a more permanent seat at the table. Haas does make the most sense long term but that’s still a full season and a half from now, and I don’t see the driver lineup being set much before silly season 2015. I just hope this isn’t indicative of money problems of Marrussia they are in line for a huge cash boost for next year and the car isn’t complete garbage either.

  • John M

    I can’t help but feel bad for Kaumi or Max but it is a win-win for their struggling teams. They get an infusion of money and a shakeup of talent which could inspire better results. If it fails they can go back to their original drivers no harm, no foul (except to Kaumi or Max’s feelings). That all being said I’m pleased to see an American on the grid. He’s young enough that hopefully he will perform well and justify his presence for years to come. Which to me is the most interesting question. If Rossi or Lotterer perform better than expected do Kaumi or Max get their seats back ? I’m not new to racing but I am to F1 and this is my first silly season so I don’t know how usual these situations are or how they usually play out. From an outside perspective it would appear that Max has a better chance than Kaumi being that Kaumi is funded by his fans. I also doubt Max volunteered unless Marussia is in a more dire financial situation than I’ve previously heard of. If Rossi or Lotterer can keep their seats it would be an interesting wrinkle in the sweepstakes for driver seats in 2015. With JEV, Chilton and Kobayashi having questionable futures combined with changes looming at McLaren & Sauber as well as the plethora of driver’s itching to get a spot such Carlos Sainz Jr, Fabio Leimer and Giedo Van Der Garde (just to name a few) it should be very interesting to see who will be behind the wheel in 2015. With Alexander Rossi being a test driver the past few seasons I’m not surprised to see him getting a drive but something I don’t understand however is Andre Lotterer’s appointment at Caterham. I get that he’s one of the most successful driver on the planet but I’d never heard his name associated with F1 before this week. (I did read after the he had a few test drive’s for the now defunct Jaguar Team but that was almost a decade ago)

  • I still don’t understand the Lotterer’s appointment either. I think it’s just a play for money. Lotterer’s record shows that he is a very skilled driver, but I’m not sure he’ll bring much more than some cash to the team in Spa. Perhaps he can offer a different perspective on the performance or weak points of the car.

  • Andreas

    And suddenly, 20 minutes into FP1, SkyF1 reports that Max will be driving this weekend (from FP2 onwards) after all. Even though the deadline for nominating drivers expired at 4pm on Thursday, and Rossi was on that list… Interesting turn of events, to say the least.

  • John M

    I’m now sad for both Rossi and Chilton, lol. I also read an article on paddocktalk that said Lotterer will be racing for this race and possibly Japan and he was also quoted as saying “I’m not leaving Audi” so I guess it’s just a marketing ploy but who knows maybe he’ll do well however seeing that he just finished 21st in FP1 and is driving a Caterham I doubt it.

    • Andreas

      From what I saw in FP1, Lotterer was providing some good feedback to the team (something it has been alluded that Kobayashi isn’t as good at). And he was quicker than his team mate, after all. It’ll be interesting to see how he does in the following sessions (sadly, I’m not able to see FP2 live, but will catch up asap). He’s a seriously fast driver, but the question is how quickly he can adapt to the F1 car.

      Re the Marussia mess, the speculation is that the “contractual issues” were simply sponsor money (for Max’s seat) that hadn’t materialised, and opting for the reserve driver instead was Marussia putting their foot down. Once the “issues” were sorted, the seat was his again. There was a rumour going around that the team had problems handling the costs of getting to Spa, and even if it doesn’t turn out to be true, I can imagine things being tight for the team.

      • John M

        You make some good points particularly with the offering feedback aspect. I never thought of that but it makes a lot of sense

  • Tom Firth

    Feel sorry for Alex Rossi, the guy was in a arms length of getting a F1 raceseat and had it cruelly taken away from him, in much the same way Razia did :(