America will finally have an F1 driver on the grid for the first time in eight years. The Manor F1 Team has announced that GP2 Series driver Alexander Rossi will drive for the outfit in five of the last seven races of the 2015 season. He will replace Roberto Merhi.
The 23-year-old Californian has been touted as the country’s only realistic F1 prospect in recent years, having had test and reserve driver roles with Caterham and Manor (in its Marussia guise) over the last three seasons while dovetailing in the GP2 Series and the Formula Renault 3.5 Series.
“We are delighted to sign Alexander,” said team principal John Booth.
“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. Signing Alexander is a continuation of our proud record of providing young drivers with the opportunity to showcase their talents.
“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.”
He came close to landing a race drive with the Marussia team at last year’s Belgian Grand Prix where he was announced as part of the team’s line-up when Max Chilton’s backers defaulted on a sponsorship installment. After driving in the opening practice session, Chilton’s money came through and Rossi was demoted. Despite the disappointment, he earned widespread praise for his conduct and his refusal to criticise the behind-the-scenes maneuvering.
Rossi is currently enjoying his best season in Formula 1’s feeder championship, lying second overall in the championship standings with two race wins in a year that has been dominated by McLaren protégé Stoffel Vandoorne.
His form – and his nationality – have put him under consideration for a possible race seat with the new Haas F1 Team, although the rumours seem to have cooled in recent weeks.
His Manor F1 deal will allow him to see out the GP2 Series season, which has its remaining rounds at the Russian and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix, as well as a late addition to the calendar in Bahrain where it will support the final round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.
This means that Rossi will contest the other Grands Prix this year, including this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix, as well as the races in Japan, the United States, Mexico and Brazil.
Merhi will drive at the rounds where the GP2 Series shares its schedule with Formula 1, namely at Sochi and Yas Marina.
Images via GP2 Series