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.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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