Alexander Rossi and Manor bring American driver back to F1
The 23-year-old Californian racing driver has shown promise in the early stages of his career. He dominated in Formula BMW, and went on to win numerous races in Formula Renault, GP3, and GP2. He served as a test driver for the Caterham F1 team for three seasons before switching to Manor/Marussia.
Rossi's promotion to the race seat will see him replace Roberto Merhi and partner with Will Stevens for five out of the seven races remaining in the 2015 Formula One World Championship. After Singapore, he'll compete in Japan, the US, Mexico, and Brazil. However, Merhi will retake the wheel for the races in Russia and Abu Dhabi. This schedule will allow Rossi to continue competing in the GP2 Series, where he currently sits second in the standings – 38 points ahead of his closest rival but over a hundred points behind the leader with three double-headers still to go.
Formerly known as Marussia and as Virgin Racing before it, the Manor team has encountered serious trouble over the past few seasons. It joined the grid in 2010, but failed to score a single championship point until 2014 when Jules Bianchi finished the Monaco Grand Prix in ninth place. Later that season at the Japanese Grand Prix, Bianchi crashed and suffered catastrophic injuries from which he would never recover. Rossi was slated to take his place at the following race, but the team ultimately elected to enter only the one car. The team then dropped off the grid for the remainder of the season, only to return for the next – under a different name, with different drivers, and having missed the opening round. Stevens and Merhi have made a consistent if unremarkable showing this season so far, but will now see their roster shaken up for the remainder.
With the announcement, Rossi is slated to become the first American to compete in a Formula One grand prix since Scott Speed left the series in 2007. The last American driver to win a grand prix was also the last to win the world championship. That was Mario Andretti, who did both in 1978. (Although Andretti was born in Italy, he acquired American citizenship in 1964.) Alexander Rossi may not be in a position to win any races (let alone the championship) this year, but it'll be exciting to see him compete nonetheless, and to see where his career, given a strong enough showing, might take him next.
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