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American Rossi Suddenly Has Two Jobs

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, March 9 2016
Alexander Rossi will be double dipping this year.

Alexander Rossi will be double dipping this year.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Alexander Rossi suddenly is a man in demand. The last American to compete in Formula One has been signed by Manor Racing as its official reserve driver for the 2016 FIA F1 World Championship.

bugnotesWednesday’s announcement comes a little over two weeks after Rossi was introduced as Andretti Autosport’s fourth driver for the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season. The 24-year-old Californian will drive the No. 98 Honda, following a merger with Bryan Herta Autosport that moved that entry into the Andretti stable.

A native of California, Rossi competed in five races with the Manor Marussia F1 Team in 2015, but failed to land a fulltime drive when the organization based in Banbury, United Kingdom, signed rookies Pascal Wehrlein of Germany and Rio Haryanto of Indonesia during the offseason.

Rossi now faces the daunting prospect of juggling duties in both series simultaneously. “I don’t really know what is waiting for me, but I have always had very high expectations of myself,” said Rossi, referring to an IndyCar career that will begin this weekend with practice and qualifying for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Sunday’s race will be televised at 12:30 p.m. (EDT) on ABC.

“I’ve invested most of my career in F1 and I’m not one to kick my heels and wait for things to happen, so this is my way of staying sharp and prepared,” said Rossi, who plans to be on-site at 11 F1 races, starting with the Russian Grand Prix on May 1.

“It was disappointing to miss-out on a race seat with Manor Racing this year; everyone knows I pushed and worked hard for it,” Rossi said on the F1 website. “As official reserve driver though, I have a very complimentary dual program at the highest level of motorsport. IndyCar is the premier category of open wheel racing in North America and extremely competitive. I also have the privilege of racing with a championship winning team, Andretti Autosport.

“I’m confident this experience will add to my role as a very important cog in an F1 team’s wheel. My schedule this year is demanding, but no more than a fulltime F1 schedule. I will attend 11 grands prix, only five of which take place during the IndyCar season, and I am certainly used to the travel demands of the F1 calendar. It’s great to be back with a team I know and with whom I share a mutual respect and passion for the sport we love.”

Rossi’s five-race stint with Manor Marussia last year featured a career-best, route-going/56-lap, 12th-place finish in October’s rain-plagued fourth annual U.S. Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas. In his third start for the underfunded Manor team, Rossi became the first American to compete at COTA and first American to drive in F1 since Scott Speed in 2007.

Rossi also finished as point runnerup last season in GP2, the top developmental series for aspiring F1 drivers. Rossi has made 209 career open-wheel starts, with 42 wins, 75 podiums, 36 poles and a winning total of 20.1 percent.

Dave Ryan, Manor’s racing director, said the team was fortunate to secure a driver with Rossi’s proven resume. “We need a safe pair of hands for the role, which always carries the potential to have to step-up to race, but also someone who can really contribute to the development of the car,” Ryan said.

Rossi reportedly will work with the team’s engineers and drivers to develop the Mercedes-powered MRT05, participate in marketing activities and be available to deputize for race duty on short notice.

“For Alex, F1 is still unfinished business,” Ryan said. “He did a great job when he drove for us in five of last season’s races and he’s a highly rated and valuable part of our lineup. He does have one heck of a schedule ahead of him and it’s a commitment that only the most disciplined of drivers would be able to manage. We’re confident he’s the man for the job.”

Meanwhile, Manor has opted to race with two rookies. Wehrlein, a 21-year-old native of Germany, is a Mercedes works protégé, having won the prestigious DTM Touring Car championship in 2015 _ the youngest driver to do so. He also has served as Mercedes’ F1 reserve driver on the team featuring three-time/reigning World Driving Champion Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Nico Rosberg of Germany. Wehrlein will drive Manor’s No. 94 car.

Haryanto, 23, is Indonesia’s first F1 driver. He was promoted to the seat after scoring three wins in GP2 last season with Campos Racing and acing an offseason test. Haryanto will drive the team’s No. 88 car. Great Britain’s Jordan King, 22, will return as the team’s developmental driver.

The season-opening Australian GP in Melbourne is set for Sunday, March 20, and will be televised domestically on NBC Sports Network.

At Andretti Autosport, Rossi is part of a team featuring the last three American-born drivers to race in Formula One, along with team-owner Michael Andretti and Speed, Andretti’s Global Rallycross driver. Rossi, driver of the No. 98 Honda, has joined 2012 series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Carlos Munoz in the team’s Indy car lineup. Herta, a former driver for Andretti, will serve as Rossi’s pit strategist.

Officials at Circuit of The Americas confirmed Wednesday the return of the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix to Austin, Texas, on Oct. 21-23, the 18th of 21 events on the globe-trotting schedule. The race’s future has been the subject of speculation over the state’s financial contribution to a reported $25-million annual sanctioning fee.

Mercedes superstar Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain clinched his third World Driving Championship with a victory in last year’s rain-plagued event. The fifth edition of the race on COTA’s 3.427-mile/20-turn circuit in Travis County also will see the debut of Haas F1 Team, the first American-based Formula One organization in 30 years.  Officials also announced that 10-time Grammy award-winner Taylor Swift will perform on COTA’s Super Stage on Saturday, Oct. 22, after the qualifying session.

“We are so happy to confirm F1’s return to COTA, as well as Taylor Swift’s headline performance,” Bobby Epstein, COTA chairman/CEO, said in a statement. “Since we first hosted this event in2012, we have gained a lot of knowledge and insight that has allowed us to make significant annual improvements to the event that we are confident will continue to establish the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix as the standout race weekend on F1’s calendar.”

Three-day weekend passes, which include access to a lawn seat for Saturday’s concert, will go on sale Wednesday, April 6, at 10 a.m. at circuitoftheamericas.com. Additionally, fans purchasing a three-day reserved grandstand seat or Sunday-only reserved grandstand seat before July 5 will receive a 105 percent refund of the value of the ticket if it rains over 2.5-inches during the 24 hours before the start of Sunday’s race. Even if the event is not cancelled, those fans will receive the refund. Hotel rooms can be booked at www.circuitoftheamericas.com/bookaroom.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, March 9 2016
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