Alexander Rossi joins Marussia as reserve driver

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American F1 hopeful Alexander Rossi has joined Marussia F1 Team as its official reserve driver with immediate effect.

The 22-year-old had previously worked with Caterham, but left its development driver programme when the team came under new ownership. Having also left its GP2 team, he enjoyed a one race with Campos in Germany before making way for regular driver Kimiya Sato for the Hungarian rounds this weekend.

However, he has kept himself firmly in contention for an F1 seat in the future – potentially with Haas Formula in 2016 – by joining Marussia, and was delighted to confirm the news today.

“Today is a good day and next step in my Formula 1 career,” Rossi said. “Since my initial discussions with the Marussia F1 Team management, I’ve felt right at home. I’m looking forward to working with the team in Hungary and building for the rest of the season.

“The timing of my affiliation with the team is perfect, especially beginning in Hungary before the summer break. My goal is Formula 1, and I’m delighted to be immersed into the team as official reserve driver, where I have the opportunity to prepare for this next step, with plans to drive in Free Practice 1 this season.”

Marussia has been one of the breakthrough teams in 2014, scoring its first ever points in F1 through Jules Bianchi at Monaco earlier this year. For Rossi, it is the right move to make.

“Marussia is in an exciting place right now and the progress at the team is clear for all to see,” he said. “I’m thrilled that now I have the chance to be part of that journey, to progress and play a useful role in the development of the team. I want to thank Marussia F1 Team for the opportunity this season.”

Team principal John Booth is equally as enthusiastic about the move, believing that tying Marussia to the American market will be very beneficial.

“We are very pleased to welcome Alexander to the Marussia F1 Team in the role of Official Reserve Driver,” he said. “He is a proven talent whom we have observed in GP2 and we have also been impressed by his performances during Friday morning free practice sessions over the past two seasons.

“The US is an exciting market for the sport and Alexander has a great deal of support there, so it is nice to develop new links to that audience. Alexander will be an integral part of the Team, immersing himself in our engineering activity so that he is fully prepared should he ever be required to deputise for one of the race drivers.

After a difficult period, the next chapter in Rossi’s career looks set with Marussia. After seven years without an American driver in Formula 1, we could be a step closer to seeing the star spangled banner represented on the grid once again.

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).