Rossi to replace van der Garde in Bahrain practice

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Caterham reserve driver Alexander Rossi will get another taste of Grand Prix weekend running at the Bahrain Grand Prix, where he will replace Giedo van der Garde during Free Practice 1.

Rossi became the first American driver to compete during a race weekend since Scott Speed in 2007 at last year’s Spanish Grand Prix, and having been retained by the team for 2013, he will get another chance to impress in Bahrain.

It was also confirmed today that Rossi’s fellow test driver, Ma Qing Hua, will deputize for Charles Pic at the Chinese Grand Prix, which will undoubtedly act as an extra draw for Hua’s home crowd in Shanghai.

Although van der Garde was not pleased to be losing the practice session in Bahrain, he told GP Update that he was contractually obliged to make way for Rossi.

“I would have rather be driving these sessions myself and get as much track time as possible,” van der Garde said. “But this is in the contract and I’m sure it will be good experience for these guys.”

van der Garde also reflected on his own test driver duties for Caterham, believing his Friday running went a long way to securing him the seat with the team.

“I had that same role with the team last year and because of the work I did then, I earned this race seat.”

This will present a good opportunity for both Hua and Rossi, and as the American F1 market continues to grow, the latter may become a hotly sought-after driver should a seat become vacant.

With both Pic and van der Garde making way so early in the season, it will only fuel rumors that Caterham could be set to drop one of their drivers. Heikki Kovalainen, who drove for the team between 2010 and 2012, was a guest of the team in Malaysia, and sources in the paddock believe that the team could bring the Finnish driver back following a lackluster start to the 2013 season.

F1 2017 driver review: Max Verstappen

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Max Verstappen

Team: Red Bull Racing
Car No.: 33
Races: 20
Wins: 2
Podiums (excluding wins): 2
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 168
Laps Led: 133
Championship Position: 6th

Max Verstappen rise as a once-in-a-generation talent continued through the 2017 Formula 1 season, even if reliability issues meant we were made to wait for his best form to arrive.

Verstappen stole the show in a wet-dry Chinese Grand Prix by charging from 16th to seventh in the opening lap before ultimately finishing third for Red Bull, yet he would not grace the podium again until the Malaysian Grand Prix at the start of October.

A combination of power unit problems and on-track clashes saw Verstappen retire from seven of the 12 races in the intermittent period, with incidents in Spain and Austria being avoidable.

Perhaps most embarrassing of all was his stoppage due to a power unit failure in front of a grandstand swathed in orange at the Belgian Grand Prix, a race tens of thousands of Dutch fans had attended to cheer Verstappen on.

But when Verstappen got things right, it was – as he frequently quoted – simply, simply lovely. There was plenty left in the tank, as proven by his sheer domination of the races in Malaysia and Mexico as he took the second and third wins of his career.

Perhaps even more impressive was Verstappen’s victory over Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo in the qualifying head-to-head battle this year, an area the Australian has traditionally been strong in. Verstappen outqualifed his teammate 13-7 – it wasn’t even close…

All in all, Verstappen once again proved that on his day, he is one of the finest talents to grace F1 in recent years. With the right car underneath him next year, a title fight is certainly possible and will be the target – but there is always room for improvement.

And that is the scary part: Verstappen is only going to get better and better.

Season High: Dominating in Malaysia after an early pass on Lewis Hamilton.

Season Low: Crashing out on Lap 1 in Austria.