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American Rossi Set To Make Formula One Debut

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, August 22 2014

Alexander Rossi will provide an American presence in the Grand Prix of Belgium. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Grand Prix)

A seven-year drought by American drivers competing in Formula One will end during the Belgian Grand Prix this weekend, when native Californian Alexander Rossi will make his debut with Marussia F1 Team in place of Max Chilton.

Rossi, who joined the British-based team as a reserve driver on July 24, is subbing for Chilton while unspecified “contractual issues are resolved” with the Englishman.

Rossi, 22, had been involved in F1 as a reserve/test driver with the Caterham team, logging track-time during four Friday practice sessions over the past three seasons.

“It goes without saying that I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to race in Formula One for the first time,” Rossi said on the F1 website. “I cannot thank the Marussia F1 Team enough 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 (Friday) and I hope to reward the team with a solid race weekend.”

A native of Auburn, Calif., whose hometown is listed as Nevada City, Calif., Rossi will be the first
American to compete in F1 since fellow-Californian Scott Speed made his final appearance for Scuderia Toro Rosso in the 2007 European Grand Prix.

American drivers largely remain a curiosity in Formula One; Speed’s appearance as test driver for Red Bull Racing at the 2005 Canadian Grand Prix marked him as the first American to participate in an F1 event since Michael Andretti’s ill-fated fulltime stint with Team McLaren in 1993. Speed, who made his F1 race debut with Toro Rosso at the 2006 Bahrain Grand Prix, logged 28 F1 starts without scoring a point.

Sunday’s race is the 12th event of the FIA World Championship schedule. Rossi also will be the second driver making his F1 debut at Spa, where Caterham has opted to replace Kamui Kobayashi of Japan with German endurance ace Andre Lotterer, a three-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans with the Audi factory team.

John Booth, Marussia’s team principal, indicated Rossi’s F1 stint could be brief as he is anxious to resolve Chilton’s contract situation. Chilton, who has made 30 Grand Prix starts without scoring a point, has driven for the team since 2013.

“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,” Booth said. “Naturally, we hope to resume normal service with respect to our established race driver lineup as soon as possible, but for now we wish Alexander well for the weekend ahead and we look forward to seeing him in action.”

The only American to currently hold an FIA Super License, Rossi will team with Frenchman Jules Bianchi, who has scored two points this season and sits 16th among 22-drivers overall. The Marussia chassis are powered by Ferrari engines.

Live TV coverage of Friday’s practice will be carried by NBCSN from 8 to 9:30 a.m. (EDT). The network will air qualifying from 12:30 to 2 p.m. (EDT) on Saturday with race coverage scheduled from 7:30 to 10 a.m. (EDT) Sunday.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, August 22 2014
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