This weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix will see not one, but two, Formula 1 racing debuts. American racer Alexander Rossi will start his first Formula 1 race with Marussia at the upcoming Spa-Francorchamps round.

After Caterham recently confirmed that three-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner André Lotterer would replace Kamui Kobayashi, Marussia has done likewise by replacing Max Chilton (pictured above right) with Rossi (centre).

Chilton’s departure is due to “contractual issues”, a statement from the team reads.

“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,” Marussia team principal John Booth said.

“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.”

Californian-born Rossi has spent the past two seasons as a test and reserve driver for Caterham, but left the outfit following the team’s sale to a consortium of Swiss and Middle Eastern investors.

He joined Marussia’s reserve driver line-up at the Hungarian Grand Prix, with the expectation that he would make his debut in Friday practice this weekend.

“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 enough for the faith they are demonstrating in me,” the 22-year-old said.

“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.”

The speculation over Chilton’s departure is interesting in itself – it would suggest his latest sponsorship installment has failed to arrive – but his camp has deflected Marussia’s claims over the reasons surrounding his absence.

“Max Chilton has volunteered to step out of his race seat for this weekend’s race at Spa to allow the team to attract much-needed funds by selling his seat,” a statement from his camp reads.

“Marussia are currently in talks with several new investors. It is expected the situation will be resolved before the next race in Monza.”

Image via XPB Images

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.