Alex Rossi

2019 Rolex 24 DPI Preview

The only place to be as a racing driver in late January is Daytona International Speedway, for the annual Rolex 24 season opening extravaganza for the IMSA WeatherTech series.

The winter has seen substantial change, with the DPI formula cars now being given center- stage, after sharing the top class with European spec LMP2 cars for the past five seasons.

The DPI class has been given a power boost, with the cars already looking much quicker in the Roar pre-race test. The DPI class boasts an impressive eleven car entry, with factory backed efforts from Cadillac, Acura, Nissan and Mazda. The level of manufacture support shows that the class has a long-term health, with more car makers strongly rumoured to be joining the class from next year.

Let’s take a look at the eleven entries that will be fighting for the overall victory and the Rolex watch.

#5 Mustang Sampling Action Express Cadillac DPI: Filipe Albuquerque/Joao Barbosa/Mike Conway/Christian Fittipaldi 

For the #5 crew 2018 was an up-and-down year for the team. They won the Rolex 24 after narrowly missing out in 2017, yet aside from a further win in Long Beach the team struggled. Albuquerque finished the year sixth in the points, a down year for one of the benchmarks in the series for the last few years.

For this year regular driver Christian Fittipaldi is only doing the Rolex 24 before retirement, so former Audi factory man Albuquerque steps in alongside Barbosa for the full season. Regular endurance co-driver Mike Conway returns to a strong entry looking to give Fittipaldi the perfect send-off.

The team will be pleased with fourth and top Cadillac car in the Roar qualifying for pit-box and garage selection, however to be almost 0.9s back from the factory Mazda team is a slight concern. The team have a proven entry and reliable car but lady luck needs to smiling on you if you’re to win the Rolex 24 such is the competitiveness of this class.

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#6 Acura Team Penske Acura ARX-05: Dane Cameron/Juan Pablo Montoya/Simon Pagenaud

The factory Acura programme instantly became a force in the IMSA series last season, with the might of Team Penske behind it this was not surprising to many. Going into 2019 the team looks increasingly formidable, with a year now behind the team to iron out any reliability issues.

Dane Cameron and Juan Pablo Montoya are the full season pairing again, with former Indycar champion Simon Pagenaud joining them for the endurance rounds. Montoya is the star name in this entry because of his F1 experience, however it’s Dane Cameron who is the hidden gem of this entry.

Seventh fastest in qualifying for deciding the pit garage/box selection will slightly hinder the team, but less than two tenths away from their team-mates in third just shows the fine margins that make a big difference in this series.

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#7 Acura Team Penske Acura ARX-05: Helio Castroneves/Ricky Taylor/Alex Rossi

The #7 took the only win for Acura last season, however they were less consistent over the year when compared to their teammates. After making their debut last year the team can now go into this years Rolex 24 knowing they have a good chance of winning this race.

Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor return to form a very strong duo, and for the Rolex 24 have former Indy 500 winner Alex Rossi on board. Rossi is a quality signing will be very quick in the Acura, with the only knock on him being a lack of significant sportscar experience.

The team were very quick in the pre-race testing, finishing best of the rest behind the Mazda’s in the pit selection qualifying session. To be at the front of a very tightly packed field is a good result, with the only downside being the 0.8s gap to the factory Mazda duo.

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#10 Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPI: Fernando Alonso/Kamui Kobayashi/Jordan Taylor/Renger van der Zande 

The Wayne Taylor racing team created all the pre-race headlines this winter when they announced that double F1 world champion Fernando Alonso would be joining the team for the Rolex 24. He made his debut in the race last year, but this year he joins an already formidable team as he looks for his first Rolex 24 victory.

Coming off an incredible Petit Le Mans victory last October, are returning dynamic pair Jordan Taylor and Renger van der Zande. Both proved last year to be a good pairing and very quick. Completing the line-up is Toyota factory driver Kamui Kobayashi, another headline maker adding to an embarrassment of riches for this team.

The team was right in the mix at the pre-race Roar, although sixth in the qualifying session will be a slight disappointment. This team has all the ingredients to win this race, although every winner needs a clean run and a dose of luck to succeed over 24 hours against this quality field.

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#31 Whelen Engineering Action Express Cadillac DPI: Eric Curran/ Pipo Derani/Felipe Nasr

The defending champions return for another crack at the Rolex 24, after being the bridesmaid behind their teammates last year. They claimed the overall championship however, along with the North American Endurance Cup.

The championship winning partnership between Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr has been broken up for 2019, with Brazilian Pipo Derani joining countryman Nasr for the full season. Curran has now been shifted to an endurance rounds only deal with the team.

The team ran well at the Roar, finishing a close fifth in the qualifying session, less than a tenth behind their teammates. The DPI class gets stronger every year in IMSA and this line-up has only improved despite winning the title last year. This entry is one of the several that can seriously challenge for victory should they not run into problems.

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#50 Juncos Racing Cadillac DPI: Rene Binder/Agustin Canapino/Kyle Kaiser/Will Owen

The IMSA series is improving in quality every year, with the addition this year of Indycar outfit Juncos Racing. This is the team’s first foray into sportscar racing, however they have a very good CV from the American open wheel scene.

The team went for the proven Cadillac DPI package, and will hope to impress in their first sportscar outing. The team have brought in plenty of drivers they have experience with, starting with young driver Rene Binder. He’s hoping to impress and cement himself in America after spending years chasing the F1 dream in Europe. Will Owen will provide sportscar experience and was a former Juncos driver, as was Kyle Kaiser. Both raced for the team in the Mazda Road to Indy ladder.

The fourth and final driver is a wildcard, the Argentinian Agustin Canapino. He’s been a proven winner in various Argentinian touring car series, and will no doubt grab his chance to shine on the international stage. This is the first race for the team in sportscar so they will have a lot to learn, but they could spring a surprise if others hit misfortune.

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#54 CORE Autosport Nissan DPI: Jon Bennett/Colin Braun/Romain Dumas/Loic Duval 

The surprise package of the 2018 IMSA season was this CORE Autosport team, but it’s all change for the team this year. In an unfancied LMP2 entry they came within three points of winning the series title, with Colin Braun and amateur driver Jon Bennett.

After the rules change to separate the DPI and LMP2 entries and the closure of the ESM team CORE have made the step up to take on their Nissan DPI entry for the 2019 season.  The returning duo of Colin Braun and Jon Bennett have a long history together and work very well. They are joined by Porsche and Audi factory drivers Romain Dumas and Loic Duval, further adding to the talent in this team.

At the pre-race Roar they were off the ultimate pace, being the slowest DPI outfit in the qualifying session, behind even the fastest LMP2 entry. Whilst the team have to learn the intricacies of the Nissan DPI package, the team shocked everyone last year so why can’t they do it again this year?

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#55 Mazda Team Joest Mazda DPI: Jonathan Bomarito/Olivier Pla/Harry Tincknell 

The Mazda factory DPI outfit started the year slowly but improved massively as the season wore on. The team have the might of Team Joest running their programme, and for 2019 they could prove to be a good outside bet for the championship.

On the driving front Jonathan Bomarito and Harry Tincknell return for the full season, and for the endurance rounds are partnered by Frenchman Olivier Pla. All three are proven at this level as quick sportscar racers.

In pre-race testing the Mazda team stole the headlines, securing a 1-2 in the qualifying session, significantly quicker than their rivals. Whilst this may not be reflected in the race, the team certainly have everyone guessing right now as to their ultimate pace.

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#77 Mazda Team Joest Mazda DPI: Timo Bernhard/Oliver Jarvis/Tristan Nunez/Rene Rast

The 2-3 for Mazda at Petit Le Mans last year gave the team some positive direction going into the winter, and they appear to have worked hard to maintain this forward progress. Team Joest and Mazda have clearly been working hard to make themselves regular contenders in this uber competitive class.

Oliver Jarvis and Tristan Nunez return for another full season with the team, and for the Rolex 24 they have Timo Bernhard and Rene Rast joining them. Both are very quick prototype drivers who are high profile additions to the team.

The #77 car showed very well at the Roar test, setting an unofficial track record in the qualifying session. Their time was only closely matched by their team mates, showing the team have very good one lap pace. If they can stay reliable for 24 hours they will be tough to beat if they can consistently replicate their one lap pace shown at the Roar.

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#84 JDC-Miller Motorsport Cadillac DPI: Chris Miller/Juan Piedrahita/Stephen Simpson/Simon Trummer

JDC-Miller are another team that have switched from LMP2 to DPI chassis this year as they continue hunting for overall race wins. The team have taken the safest choice and are running two Cadillac DPI chassis this season.

The team’s race winning line-up from last season has been split up, with Stephen Simpson moving to this #85 entry for this year. He is joined for the year by Simon Trummer, another single seater convert looking to find a long-term home. Joining them for the Rolex 24 is experienced racer Chris Miller, along with Indy Lights convert Juan Piedrahita.

The team were one of the surprises of last year along with CORE Autosport, and for this year with a proven Cadillac DPI package and a strong driver crew the team could be contending for the podium come Sunday afternoon.

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#85 JDC-Miller Motorsport Cadillac DPI: Rubens Barrichello/Devlin DeFrancesco/Misha Goikhberg/Tristan Vautier

JDC-Miller’s win at the 6 Hours of Watkins Glen last year proved they can be successful at this level after recently stepping up from the LMPC class. The switch to Cadillac DPI machinery is a big step for the Minnesota based team, and one that should bring more success for the team in the coming years.

Misha Goikhberg was very impressive last year and is paired this year with Tristan Vautier. He is a very quick and experienced racer who moves across from the Spirit of Daytona team. GP3 racer Devlin DeFrancesco returns to the team after last year and completing the line-up is star name and former longtime F1 racer Rubens Barrichello.

The JDC-Miller motor sport team proved last year they are a very well run team who can perform well in IMSA. They should have time during the winter to get used to the new Cadillac DPI package, and they have every chance to spring a deserving surprise with Rolex 24 victory.

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Who do you think will win the Rolex 24 this weekend? Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below. A massive thank you to Motorsport.com and LAT Images for the photos featured in this post. Find me on Twitter @JWjournalism and thank you for reading!

 

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2016 Indianapolis 500 Preview Part 3

Part three is my final roundup previewing the upcoming Indianapolis 500, one of the centre piece events in motorsport. Feel free to visit my other preview pages on my blog, with this entry previewing the final thirteen entries on the grid. The race will undoubtedly provide plenty of action and drama throughout the 500 miles of racing, so let’s take a look at the final batch of contenders.

#25 KVSH Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Stefan Wilson

The #25 entry is a very special one, as it’s being run in honour of the popular Brit Justin Wilson, who was tragically killed last August by debris at Pocono. This is why his brother Stefan is making his Indy 500 debut this year, with the KVSH racing team.

Whilst Stefan is a rookie and his on track performance is of course important, unlike any other car on the grid this one has another purpose. To raise money for charities linked with Justin. Whilst it’s fitting that it’s his brother who keeps the Wilson name on the Indycar grid this year, it will be tough to produce any headlines on track.

He has only competed in one other Indycar race, making this his first Indy 500 and first Indycar event since 2013. He’s qualified 30th and will find it tough to make up places, despite a strong KVSH team behind him. To claim a top twenty spot would be a result for Stefan, although the wider goal of money raised will be irrespective from his on track performance.

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#26 United Fire Data Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda: Carlos Munoz

Carlos Munoz is a young Colombian who is making a name for himself in Indycar as a very solid young driver. He started the season off well with eighth, but since then a string of finishes outside the top ten have hampered his progress.

Andretti Autosport and Honda appear to be hooked up here in Indianapolis, with three of the Andretti entries in the top five of qualifying. Munoz was the third of the entries in fifth, a great starting position for the race. Although he will have to race hard to remain in the top five, Munoz has put himself in a perfect position to claim a great result this Sunday.

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#27 Snapple Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda: Marco Andretti

The most famous name in the race is likely to be considered Marco Andretti. The latest in the Andretti has shared his father and grandfather’s bad luck at the Brickyard. While similarly talented names have multiple wins, Marco has yet to win the 500.

Whilst he seemingly always manages to run well at Indianapolis, he has struggled to convert this into a good result here. So far it’s been a tough start to the season for him, with no top ten finishes and a 14th qualifying spot for the 500. Whilst a big result at the 500 can easily turn a season around, on current form and considering his bad luck here simply a top ten finish would be an improvement for Marco Andretti.

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#28 DHL Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda: Ryan Hunter-Reay

Ryan Hunter Reay has been a mainstay both at Andretti Autosport and at the front of the grid in Indycar for the past five years. He has proven his talent with both the Indycar title in 2012 and Indy 500 victory in 2014.

This year has plateaued slightly in the last few rounds, something Hunter-Reay will want to rectify in the biggest race of the year. He’s qualified on the outside of the front row in third, showing just how well he can run around here.

With his Andretti team seemingly on top of the circuit, Hunter-Reay will surely go into the race as one of the select few of serious contenders. Whilst a good haul of points would be good for Hunter-Reay, based on his practice speed surely anything other than a win will be met with a tinge of disappointment.

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#29 Robert Graham Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda: Townsend Bell

American sportscar and open wheel racer Townsend Bell returns for another crack at the Indy 500, after switching his full season focus to sportscars several years ago. Bell always seems to perform well at Indianapolis, and this year a one-off deal with Andretti Autosport it a great fit for him.

With little running before the event Bell has shown how strong the Andretti team is by placing his car fourth on the grid in qualifying. For a one-off entry, this is a remarkable result and should it be repeated in the race would surely be one of the main talking points. Bell is capable of causing an upset and from fourth on the grid anything is possible for the experienced American.

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#35 Alfe A.J Foyt Enterprises Dallara DW12-Honda: Alex Tagliani

Alex Tagliani is a mainstay of Indycar and the Indy 500, returning with another one-off entry with the A.J Foyt Enterprises team. The experienced Canadian is capable of a good result here, despite spending the majority of the season racing GT’s in Europe.

Whilst it’s always difficult to jump into the series for one race, especially the blue riband event, but that’s not been an issue for Tagliani in the past. This year things have been difficult however, with a crash in his qualifying run relegating Tagliani to the back of the grid, having not completed a run.

His hopes for the 500 are unknown, but if he’s at this best then a top ten result is still attainable for Tagliani. With the pressure of running a full season off, he can charge from the back without thinking about the championship.

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#41 ABC Supply Co A.J Foyt Enterprises Dallara DW12-Honda: Jack Hawksworth

For Brit Jack Hawksworth this is his second season with the A.J Foyt team, and so far it’s been a tough season for him. He has yet to record a top ten finish in the first five races, and things have not improved so far at Indy.

He qualified on the final row in 31st position, and in the race this is only going to make getting to the front that bit harder for him. He can still salvage a result in such a long race, but he has not made things easy for himself. The Honda engine appears to be running well here, therefore it will be up to Hawksworth and his talent to drag the car into the top ten, of course dependent on if he can keep out of trouble as he rises through the field.

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#42 Tresiba Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Charlie Kimball

Charlie Kimball is one of those drivers who appears to be underrated amongst the Indycar community, and he’s proved himself whilst at Chip Ganassi racing for the past few years. This year has been mixed for Kimball, with a top five in the last round showing what he can do when he get’s the opportunity.

It appears here at Indianapolis that the Chip Ganassi team are struggling slightly for pace, with none of their four cars in the top twelve. For a team that won the title last year this is a tough pill to take, and something they will no doubt be working on flat out until the race start on Sunday afternoon. If they can improve the car during the race Kimball has a chance of a top ten result, if not he may struggle to move through the field from his 16th starting spot.

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#61 Pirtek Team Murray Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Matthew Brabham

The world famous Brabham name returns to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with Matthew the third generation of Brabham to race in the 500. It’s an ambitious effort from the rookie, as he is being run by Team Murray, who are also making their step up to Indycar in the biggest race of the year.

The team is receiving support from KVSH racing, and this will prove invaluable to their preparations for the race. So far Brabham has settled in well, qualifying a respectable 26th on the grid for his debut race. For his first ever Indycar race simply finishing it would be a good result for Brabham, although with so many unknowns surrounding the team anything is possible for them.

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#63 Susan G. Komen Dale Coyne Racing Dallara DW12-Honda: Pippa Mann

British racer Pippa Mann has once again found a one-off entry for the Indy 500, with support from Susan G. Komen and Dale Coyne Racing. She has shown pace in previous Indy Lights and Indycar races, and this is something she will want to show once again this Sunday.

So far it’s been a under the radar month, as she’s qualified 25th for the race. This is a respectable effort considering she has had little time to get back up to speed in these cars. For one-off entries it’s always difficult to achieve a good result, although for Pippa if things run smoothly she can easily score a top seven result in the 500, and potentially earning the opportunity to run further races later in the year.

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#77 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsport Dallara DW12-Honda: Oriol Servia

Oriol Servia has seemingly emerged as a specialist in the one-off Indianapolis 500 entry. He is a proven talent at this level and his results surely warrant a full season ride in the series, despite his lack of funds.

This year he has teamed up with Schmidt Peterson motorsports, as he looks to have a good result in the 500, which could help him earn more races in the series in the future. After running in the season opener, he has acquitted himself with the very different oval aero kit on these spec Dallara chassis, as he qualified a very good tenth on the grid. This puts him in a great position to maintain his place in the top ten come the finish, which would surely be considered a good result by the team considering his entry is a one-off.

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#88 Jonathan Byrd’s Racing Dallara DW12-Honda: Bryan Clauson

After several attempts at the Indy 500, American sprint and midget car racer Bryan Clauson is back once again this year with the one car Jonathan Byrd racing team. His two previous attempts at the 500 have not ended well, so this year Clauson will be hoping to improve upon his current best result of 30th in 2012.

In qualifying Clauson produced a good result to secure 28th on the grid. In the race he will have plenty of time to improve on 28th, although with a one car team their data is limited, therefore making it difficult to make in race adjustments to the changing track conditions. For Clauson the Indy 500 is part of a plan to take part in 200 races this year, and this is definitely the most high profile. A good result would be a top 15 result, although this may be just out of reach for the team.

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NAPA Auto Parts Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda: Alex Rossi

American Alex Rossi returns to the American racing scene this year, for the first time since his Formula BMW Americas title victory in 2008. After reaching F1 at the tail end of last season, Rossi has chose to move into the Indycar series this year.

The promise he showed in F1 has translated into Indycar so far, as he currently is the highest placed rookie in the standings after the first five races. After spending the majority of his career racing in Europe, his adjustment to ovals will prove crucial to how he fares in the centre piece Indy 500.

Taking advantage of a strong Andretti Autosport car he’s qualified a very respectable 11th for the 500, and from here he could easily push on and score a top five or top eight finish come the end. Watch out for Rossi as one of the surprises of the race.

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That not only wraps up part three, but is the finale for my preview of this Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. The race will be one not to miss, and anyone can watch it in the UK on BT Sport I believe. I would like to thank Motorsport.com again for their incredible quality photos which you see in this article, I really urge everyone to visit their site for the latest in motorsport news.

I would also like to thank you for reading these previews, and any comments at all would be greatly appreciated. Find me on Twitter @brfcjordan95.

 

 

Indycar rumour mill round-up

This week has already seen some interesting rumours develop relating to potential driver moves concerning the Indycar series. The American open wheel championship has become increasingly popular with drivers over the past few years, with plenty of European drivers now turning their back on the exorbitant costs needed to simply get close to Formula One, yet many of these racers spurn the well supported World Endurance Championship as they want to remain racing single seaters. This leaves the Indycar series as the only alternative prominent single seater championship outside of F1 or the junior categories such as GP2 or Formula Renault 3.5 series.

After Carlin announced earlier this week that they would be joining the rejuvenated Indy Lights series next year, with a view to moving up to the Indycar series in the future, this shows the increasingly appeal of Indycar to the European racing community. Firstly whilst it’s not a particularly new rumour it does seem Daniel Abt is looking to move away from GP2 for next year and join the Indycar grid for next year.

He tested for the Andretti Autosport team in late October at Barber Motorsports Park and Abt was quoted as saying about the test “I had a fantastic day with plenty of fun and learned a lot. I didn’t do this test out of boredom, but would like to explore options for next year. The test was a cool experience that definitely whets my appetite for more.” Whilst Abt has current commitments with the new Formula E series, it does appear Abt is keen to change his direction and leave GP2 for the Indycar series next year.

Another former GP2 rival could be joining him stateside, as the American Conor Daly has switched his attentions back to his homeland after running into budget problems during his second year of GP2 this year. Whilst this once again isn’t a revelation it does show how the series is attracting top line American talent not just European drivers for the series, and Daly would need less acclimatization as he finished the 2013 Indy 500 in 22nd position in a one-off deal for the iconic race.

Another top line American driver that is looking to join the Indycar grid in 2015 is Alex Rossi, formerly the Caterham and Marussia reserve driver seems to have given up on F1 after coming very close this year to making his race debut with the Marussia team. Rossi was set to make his debut at this years Belgian Grand Prix in place of Max Chilton, however Chilton was re-installed at the last minute. Rossi has now switched his attention to the Indycar series for next year. Rossi has spent the last few months talking with prospective teams, and hopes to announce a deal with a competitive team in the next few weeks and into the new year.

British racer and GP3 runner up Dean Stoneman is another driver looking to switch from Europe to the American open wheel racing scene, and hopes to secure himself a Indycar test this winter in preparation for a move stateside. Whilst Stoneman himself feels ready to join the Indycar series, he has also stated if needed to he will join the feeder Indy Lights series first to gain experience of the american road circuits and the ovals. Whilst nothing is concrete at the moment, it seems plenty of Indycar and Indy Lights teams will be interested in him joining them next year. Could a potential link up with British team Carlin work out for Stoneman next year?

The final and most exciting potential rumour surrounding the Indycar series recently has been the news former Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Jean Eric Vergne is very interested in joining the series, as his next move after being replaced in F1 for next year. The Frenchman has stated he very much is looking at the Indycar series and it seems likely he will have a string of offers to join the series next year. Whilst Vergne may take a season or two to learn the American ovals and road courses, once he gets comfortable Vergne would be a formidable competitor for anyone in the series. Nothing is planned at the moment in terms of tests or significant talks with teams, although it seems likely Vergne’s next stage of his career would be stateside.

Max Chilton rumblings leave Alex Rossi in the cold

After the announcement last night that Marussia driver Max Chilton would move aside at this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix, allegedly for non-payment from Chilton’s sponsors, therefore allowing Alex Rossi to make his Grand Prix debut. Whilst this seemed like a dream for Rossi, who only recently joined Marussia after leaving Caterham.

Sadly for Rossi, the reality quickly became something much different because as swiftly as he was announced it subsequently became common knowledge that Chilton would in fact be driving for Marussia this weekend after all. For the seemingly happy go-lucky American Alex Rossi this must be a huge blow to gear yourself up for a Grand Prix debut, only to have it snatched away so soon.

This bizarre soap opera began last night when it was announced by the team that Chilton was being replaced for this weekend because of “contractual issues.” The waters were muddied further in the aftermath of this as Chilton himself released a press statement which said that he was “stepping aside” to allow the team to sell his seat for much needed financial benefit. This seemed strange that the team and the driver were giving different explanations for Chilton stepping aside.

It seems that if the rumours are true this was the wake up call for Chilton to start leaning on his sponsors to pay up the promised funds, as whilst Free Practice 1 was taking place this morning, whilst Rossi was probably on track, it was announced by the team that Chilton would indeed by racing this weekend after all leaving Rossi with only the Free Practice 1 session for the weekend.

Whilst this will hugely disappointing for Rossi he can take some solace from the experience gained for the future, especially as this was his first time driving the Marussia MR03-Ferrari car. It seems likely Rossi will get more chances during Free practice sessions this year, most likely at his home race in Austin. With nothing confirmed in terms of driver line-up for next year an impressive showing from Rossi in any further running for the team could persuade them to take him on for the 2015 season.

Whilst it’s hard to read too much into Rossi’s display this morning as it was his first time in the car, therefore it was no surprise that he was 1.5 seconds behind highly rated team mate Jules Bianchi. This seems a good starting point for Rossi, let’s hope he gets a proper chance at F1 from here.