Rossi to make F1 debut in Singapore

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American driver Alexander Rossi will make his full Formula 1 debut in this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix, replacing Roberto Merhi at Manor Marussia F1 Team.

Rossi has spent 2015 racing in F1’s feeder series, GP2, where he currently sits second in the drivers’ championship with two race wins to his name.

However, the Californian will finally get the chance to make his maiden grand prix start this weekend in Singapore after striking a deal with Manor to take part in five of the seven remaining races in 2015.

“I’m very thankful to race for the Manor Marussia F1 team and for their continued belief in me,” Rossi said. “I’ve been prepared for this opportunity for quite a while now. Many will know from 2014 that the team and I already have a strong relationship and there’s a bit of unfinished business for me here.

“This is a small F1 team that has been through so much. They exemplify passion and true strength of character, and their comeback this season is extraordinary. I’m honored to be part of this legacy and their continued growth and success.

“I want to thank the management at Manor Marussia F1 Team and my team in the GP2 Series, Racing Engineering, for supporting both my F1 duties and the completion of an already strong GP2 campaign. Since Monza, my return to F1 came together rather quickly and seamlessly. The collective support of both Manor and Racing Engineering was instrumental in making this opportunity possible.

“Singapore is a circuit I really enjoy and the timing of my debut could not be more perfect. There’s a lot of work ahead and I’m looking forward to a busy end to the 2015 season.”

Rossi will become the first American to race in a grand prix since Scott Speed back in 2007, having narrowly missed out on a berth with Manor’s predecessor, Marussia, towards the end of the 2014 season.

An issue with regular driver Max Chilton’s sponsorship prompted Marussia to name Rossi as one of its drivers for last year’s Belgian Grand Prix, only for the British driver to reclaim his seat ahead of the grand prix.

Rossi was named as Jules Bianchi’s replacement for the Russian Grand Prix following the Frenchman’s accident at Suzuka one week earlier. Marussia ultimately opted to only field one car out of respect for the Frenchman, who died from the injuries sustained nine months later.

The team entered administration following the race in Sochi, but Rossi was on standby for a possible last-gasp return in Abu Dhabi. The deal failed to come to fruition, though, and Marussia did not return.

Earlier this month, Haas F1 team principal Günther Steiner confirmed that the American team would not be hiring an American driver for its debut season in the sport in 2016, claiming that “there is nobody out there at the moment”.

In spite of this, Rossi will finally end America’s F1 driver drought this weekend in Singapore, stepping in for Merhi.

In order to maintain his standing within GP2, Rossi will miss the grands prix in Russia and Abu Dhabi where the support series clashes with F1, with Merhi returning to the seat for his races.

Manor has confirmed that Rossi will get the chance to race in front of his home crowd at the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas this October.