Rossi loses chance as Chilton returns to race seat

Alexander Rossi will not after all make his F1 race debut in Spa after Marussia apparently sorted out its contractual issues with Max Chilton.

Rossi was allowed to participate in FP1 and at least get some mileage in the car before the Englishman took over again for FP2. Rossi finished the session in 20th place, ahead of the Caterhams

I can’t go into too much detail on the individual instances but we are running an F1 team here,” Marussia chief executive Graeme Lowdon told the BBC. “There are a large number of commercial agreements that are involved and sometimes it just happens we reach a stage where for contractual reasons it’s not appropriate for a driver to be in the car and we took that action.

“These things happen. It’s the drivers’ jobs to be flexible. Both Max and Alex are professional drivers who will take this in their stride. This is just a reflection of how the industry has to work sometimes.”

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Rossi to race Marussia at Spa in place of Chilton

Alexander Rossi will make his F1 race debut for Marussia at Spa this weekend in place of Max Chilton, who is being rested while what the team calls “contractual issues” are resolved.

A statement on behalf of Chilton said that he had stepped out of the seat in order to allow the team to raise funds by selling it.

Rossi was recently picked up by Marussia as third driver after being dropped by Caterham, for whom he drove in FP1 in Canada.

Team boss John Booth said: “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. 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.”

“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,” said Rossi. “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.”

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Andre Lotterer: “I don’t have much to lose doing this…”

Andre Lotterer says he has nothing to lose by making what at the moment is a one-off appearance for Caterham at Spa.

The 32-year-old German had to get permission from his regular employers, Audi and TOM’S, in order to be allowed to do the race,

“To have the chance to drive is something special, I think not everybody has the chance to jump in like that,” he said today. “I thought I have this opportunity, let’s do it. For sure it’s a big challenge, I think you have to be quite brave to jump in like this in the middle of the season, but the reason I feel ready for it is first of all I still race single-seaters, Super Formula, which I believe is one of the fastest single-seater series after F1. So in that sense I’m not out of shape in formula racing.

“Also I’m racing really complex cars in WEC with Audi. The last time I drove an F1 car was more than 10 years ago, the sport changed and evolved, but on my side for sure I gained a lot of experience as well. It’s something nice to do suddenly in my career. It’s a great opportunity.”

Lotterer says he knows it won’t be easy: “For sure I will have to learn everything very fast, so don’t expect too much from me. Obviously F1 a lot is dictated by the car. I don’t want to speak badly about the team, but we don’t have a winning car. We have an update package, so I hope I can bring all my experience, my speed, as fast as possible.

“The wins in other categories gave me the confidence as well to think, OK, I have an established career on the other side, which is Le Mans with Audi, and also in parallel in Japan, so I don’t have much to lose doing this, let’s say.”

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Lotterer “ready for challenge” as he heads for Spa debut

As predicted here yesterday Caterham has confirmed that Audi WEC star Andre Lotterer will drive in this weekend’s Belgian GP.

The 32-year-old will stand in for Kamui Kobayashi, who Caterham insists “still remains part of the team.”

In explaining the decision Caterham says that it “will benefit from having another experienced driver at the wheel of the car throughout the weekend and the German’s feedback will contribute to improve the performance of the car. The weather also plays a big role at Spa-Francorchamps and Lotterer is one of the most experienced drivers racing under mixed conditions.”

Lotterer, who was Jaguar’s test driver in 2000-2 before forging a new career in Japan, is in his 17th year of car racing.

“I’m ready for this challenge and I cannot wait to jump in the car and make the most out of the weekend ahead,” he said. “I will need to get settled and used to the car quickly, as the team has worked on a number of updates and we will need to have as much time as possible out on track to optimise the car’s performance. I really enjoy racing at the legendary circuit of Spa-Francorchamps, it’s one of my favourite tracks and it’s very close to where I grew up, so this makes the weekend even more special and one to remember.”

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Whiting confirms that Sochi has passed FIA inspection

Charlie Whiting led an FIA inspection of the Sochi Autodrom yesterday, and the F1 race director has said that all is well with the venue and thus the Russian GP is firmly on schedule.

“The circuit is in extremely good condition and – yes – it will be issued with a licence,” he said in a Sochi news release. “Everything has been done according to the plans – the kerbs are very good, the verges, the guardrails, the walls – everything is in an extremely good condition. Everything has been done to the highest standards and I’m extremely pleased. I can say without hesitation that the circuit is ready 60 days in advance, which is very rare really.”

Regarding race control he said: “Well, it’s state of the art, it’s very good, and I was very impressed when I walked in to the Race Control building. It really does look extremely impressive. Fundamentally, all Race Control buildings are the same, but in this particular case it’s been done with very latest high-tech equipment. The images we see at race control are absolutely superb.”

Whiting said that he probably wouldn’t need to make another visit before October’s race.

“I don’t know at the moment, but it should not be necessary. What I’ve seen today gives me complete comfort that the circuit will be entirely ready when I come back for the Grand Prix.”

Meanwhile promoter Sergey Vorobyev said: “We were ready for Mr Whiting’s visit and we want to congratulate our builders who have made this positive verdict happen. We were confident that FIA would appreciate the efforts made by our team to implement the technical details that have been so highly reviewed by Mr Whiting today.

“Now that Sochi Autodrom has received a licence, everything else is up to the organizers of the events and as such we are working intensely on ensuring that all aspects of the event are fully prepared. It is our aim to make this a truly unforgettable event with the comfort and enjoyment of our guests at the forefront of all our efforts.”

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Lotterer set for Spa debut with Caterham at 32

Audi WEC star Andre Lotterer is set to make his F1 debut at Spa this week in the Caterham usually driven by Kamui Kobayashi.

The team will probably make an announcement tomorrow pending official confirmation of his FIA Superlicence, after documentation was delayed in transit.

The initial deal will be for one race, and it remains to be seen whether it is extended, or what Kobayashi’s future with the team will be.

The opportunity comes some 14 years after Lotterer first tested a works Jaguar R1 as a teenager, and as such he will presumably set a record for the longest gap between testing and racing an F1 car.

Lotterer has been given dispensation by his TOM’S team to miss this weekend’s Super Formula race in Japan.

It’s understood that there is no sponsorship attached to the German, and his role is to provide extra feedback. He has strong connections with Caterham advisor Colin Kolles, for whom he drove in LMP1. Lotterer’s close pal James Rossiter, who also has Kolles connections, has also been in the Caterham frame.

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Max Verstappen confirmed for Toro Rosso seat in 2015

Red Bull has confirmed that Max Verstappen will drive for Scuderia Toro Rosso in 2015.

He will partner Daniil Kvyat, which means that Jean-Eric Vergne will be out of a job.

Verstappen’s father Jos raced in F1 from 1994 to 2003, competing in 106 GPs. His mother Sophie Kumpen was a karting star in her own right.

The Belgian-born Dutchman, who turns 17 on September 30, was signed as Red Bull junior driver only last week, having turned down overtures from Mercedes. He is currently lying second in the European F3 series in his first season in car racing.

He said: “Ever since I was seven years old, Formula 1 has been my career goal, so this opportunity is truly a dream come true.”

Team boss Franz Tost said: “We consider Max to be as one of the most skilled young drivers of the new generation and we believe he has the necessary maturity and mental strength to take on this challenge successfully. This year he has already demonstrated how well he can cope under difficult conditions. For example, at the Norisring and Nürburgring, he showed extraordinary determination and the ability to withstand pressure before going on to win. Bearing in mind that Scuderia Toro Rosso was created with the aim of bringing young talent from the Red Bull Junior Team into Formula 1 and to educate them, it will now be up to us to provide Max with a competitive car, which will enable him to have the best possible start to his Formula 1 career.

“With this in mind, I would also like to thank Jean-Eric Vergne for all his hard work. He has produced strong performances, but unfortunately he was also hindered by some reliability problems, especially in the first half of the current season. We hope that we have resolved these problems and that he will be able to end the second half of this season on a high note and thereby show that he still deserves another opportunity in Formula 1.”

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