Just a few hours after the Monaco Grand Prix, Manor Race Team’s reserve driver Alexander Rossi delighted the racing world as he crossed the line to win the 100th running of the Indy500 at the Indianapolis Speedway, despite not only being a rookie, but one with almost no oval experience. The American who competed in five of the last seven races of the F1 2015 season for Manor and had hoped to land a full time drive with the team for 2016 will now receive the well deserved recognition his talent deserves.
Manor Race Team Fan Blog HQ raised a large glass in honor of Rossi last evening. Not only because he is a great guy getting the moment in the sun that he deserves, he also proved us wrong and we could not be more happy for him. We have to admit, we thought it was a terrible idea for him to race in the IndyCar series this season if he still wanted to fulfill his dream of becoming an F1 driver.
Long gone are the glory days of the early to mid nineties where the series looked like becoming an attractive alternative to F1. The field is mainly made up of drivers long past their best or never good enough for F1. Due to the late decision by Manor all the best seats in IndyCar were taken and he joined a team that was not best placed to give him a chance of the title. Rightly or wrongly, a driver in IndyCar who does not stand out as an outstanding prospect (Montaya the first time around) will not even be given a sniff at an F1 drive. Very few have made the step up, even those such as Alexander Zinardi and Sebastian Bourdais who dominated Indycar, failed to make the grade in F1. Through no fault of his own, he could have written off by the F1 community forever if this season did not deliver, but deliver he has. He’s just won the only race that anyone outside IndyCar cares about and did it at his first attempt. What he does in the rest of the season is now irrelevant.
Alexander Rossi should already be a full time F1 driver. This is not a dig at Manor who at least have given him a race seat and maintained him in the capacity of a reserve driver, but a critique of the sport in general who cannot find a place on the grid for a fast, marketable American driver when F1 has been attempting to crack the American market for decades. The line given by the sport is that there hasn’t been a driver good enough, which is true to a point however Rossi ticket every box he could and even despite there being a so called American team now on the grid, still could not find a race seat to take him where his talent alone should be displayed. Failure to find Rossi a full time seat in F1 in 2017 is basically telling any young American who aspires to be in F1 and is willing to make the financial commitment of moving to Europe to progress through the junior formula’s – don’t bother.
We at MRFBHQ have long said that the two drivers who started the season were unlikely to race all 20 races for the team for various reasons. We always believed that it would Alexander Rossi who took part in the final races once his IndyCar commitments were over. It just makes sense to have an American driver in the car for the Americas races. Initially we didn’t believe it was as cut and dry that it would be Rio Haryanto that would drop out as many presumed but our stance has changed over the past few weeks. Rio’s manager Pier Hunnisett has also gone public with the funding situation and confirmed that Rio has secured the funding for 11 races and is still seeking funding for the rest of the season.
We believe it would be a massive PR coup for the team to allow Alexander Rossi to race for the team in Montreal in two weeks time. Rio will still get his 11 races minimum but Rossi whose face will be all over the American press for the next week would generate further column inches and hopefully a few more paid for stickers on the beautiful but slightly bare MRT05. In marketing terms, it is a no brainer. Perhaps Rio can be compensated by a promise of a race seat at the Singapore Grand Prix which he has not paid for yet but will be the closest he gets to a home race.
One slight flaw in our proposal. The IndyCar series has a race in Texas the same weekend as Montreal. We can only presume Rossi was allowed to compete in IndyCar and be the Manor Reserve driver if he has a clause in his IndyCar contract that allowed him to race in F1 when required. It may hurt any potential title bid in the states but F1 seats do not come along very often. Even if he was to compete for or even win the IndyCar series, it is doubtful it would boost his full time F1 prospect. A strong race or even a points finish on a circuit that should suit the MRT05 would do more for his F1 chances than anything he can do going forward in the states.
We believe that both the team and the driver should strike now whilst the iron is still hot.