Marussia: Chilton will race at Spa, Rossi won’t

Motor Racing - Formula One World Championship - Hungarian Grand Prix - Preparation Day - Budapest, Hungary

Alexander Rossi with Max Chilton

In a remarkable about turn Marussia announced during Free Practice 1 of the Belgian Grand Prix that Max Chilton will race at Spa-Francrochamps and Alexander Rossi will not make his Formula 1 debut on Sunday.

BBC reported during FP1: “Max Chilton will be back in their car [Marussia] for this afternoon’s second practice. Good news for Chilton, but spare a thought for poor Alexander Rossi. The 22-year-old American had got himself psyched up for this weekend, but may not make his race debut after all.”

A mere 24 hours earlier Marussia announced that Chilton would make way for Rossi in the team, at Spa, as the parties sorted out “contractual issues”, while the Chilton camp emphasised that their driver was volunteering to make way for Rossi to make his F1 debut to help the financially strapped team raise much needed funds.

Marussia’s Graeme Lowdon explained, “These things happen. It is the driver’s job to be flexible and both Max and Alex are professional drivers and will take this in their stride. This is a reflection of how the industry has to work sometimes.”

“I can’t go into too much detail but at the end of the day we are running an F1 team and there are a large number of commercial agreements interlinked and sometimes if for contractual reasons it is not appropriate for a driver to be in the car and we reached that stage.”

“But circumstances change, Alex is our reserve driver and he is there to help the team and be there ready when instances like this happen,” concluded Lowdon.

Shortly before first practice in Belgium, Rossi was not aware of latest developments and told BBC,  “Things came about quite quickly and I think everyone was a little surprised but I am grateful for the opportunity. I heard about it late on Thursday, it is what I have worked for my whole life so I feel ready.”

On Friday morning, Marussia applied to FIA stewards to change their nominated driver from Rossi back to Chilton for the Belgian GP, which was approved as was their request that Rossi stay in the car for FP1.

The news of the American making his Formula 1 debut was reported around the globe by major media outlets, and reversing the decision is a major PR gaffe by Marussia management which paddock insiders see as an act of desperation by the financially fragile team.

A relaxed looking Chilton sat at the Marussia gantry in the Spa pitlane watching FP1 at Spa, with the knowledge that he will be on the grid for Sunday’s race. (GP247)