Yesterday we received the great news that all round American hunk, Alexander Rossi has been named as Manor’s reserve driver for the 2016 Formula 1 season.
Rossi made his full F1 debut in last year’s Singapore Grand Prix. Stepping in for Roberto Merhi as part of a five-race Manor deal alongside his GP2 campaign. He was in contention for a race seat for 2016 but lost out to Rio Haryanto. As well as his reserve role for Manor, he will participate in a full IndyCar season for Andretti Racing which to the best of our knowledge makes him the first driver to be active in IndyCar and F1 simultaneously since Nigel Mansell in 1994.
It’s great news all round as Rossi should be in F1. With no obvious American talent in the junior formulas, we may have to wait 4/5 years for another to come along. Rossi is not only good enough to be in F1 but his marketability is probably only surpassed by Rio Haryanto in-terms of growth markets. It is a great failing for F1 that a young US proven talent cannot find a full time seat for 2016.
I do believe we will see Rossi race in the MRT05 at some point in the season, more than likely the races he completed last season which includes the USGP in Austin. If the team have chosen a quality talent like Rossi as backup over a cash heavy driver, then I believe they at least intend to use him at some point. There are various variables to how this may come about. I should underline, these are merely thoughts out loud.
Rio Haryanto was able to secure the race seat over Rossi because his money outweighed the money that Rossi could bring to the table. Although we have no knowledge of the inner workings of the deal, we do have experience in large business transactions and when the figure is as large as the one Haryanto’s backers is paying, it tends not to be a lump sum upfront payment. Instead, the deal might be staggered which allows for movement if either side of the party is unhappy with the relationship. The team know how much cash Rossi can bring and to have a cash ready replacement in case the original deal falls through is a sound plan.
Pascal Wehrlein we presume is still the Mercedes back up driver. If ill health or injury befalls Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg, Wehrlein who is being groomed to one day race for the team will likely be called up. The other unlikely scenario is that the relationship between the two current drivers sours to the extent that the team may dispose of one of them in a bid to save team harmony. It is also possible that if they decided to promote him to the main team for 2017, they would chose integrate him in the team by having him as part of the race weekend preparations towards the end of the season.
Team performance also must come into account. Finishing 10th is vital this season for Manor. This means beating at least one team. If it is a close battle and the team feel allowing Rossi to drive the car will benefit their attempts to score points they may decide to take the hit in the short-term over the previous arranged payments between Mercedes and Rio’s backers. The team may also be cut adrift in 11th and believe that Rossi’s marketability in the America’s races plus cash from his backers may cover some of the money they are set to lose.
If Haryanto preforms to the best of his ability and maintains his payments to the team we suspect it will be Pascal Wehrlein that will step aside for Rossi. The reason we suspect that comes from the wording of the press release that came from Mercedes when Wehrlein was announced with Manor. It at no point states he will drive the whole season, and is carefully worded to avoid saying so.
It’s purely speculative stuff but we have suspected for a while that the two drivers who start the season with Manor may not be the ones who finish it. We are pretty sure you will see Alexander Rossi in a MRT at some point during the year.