Alexander Rossi to replace Roberto Merhi at Manor for five races

2015 F1 season

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Manor has announced Alexander Rossi will drive for them in “five of the remaining seven rounds of the season”.

Rossi will take the place of Roberto Merhi in the team’s driver line-up.

“I’m very thankful to race for the Manor Marussia F1 team and for their continued belief in me,” said Rossi. “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.”

Rossi almost made his F1 race debut with Marussia at Spa last year
Rossi has been driving for Racing Engineering in GP2 this year and is currently second in the standings, 108 points behind McLaren junior driver Stoffel Vandoorne. He will continue to race in GP2 at Russia and Abu Dhabi, and will make his debut for Manor at Singapore this weekend and return in Japan, the USA, Mexico and Brazil.

“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,” Rossi added. “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.”

Merhi will return for the team at Sochi and Yas Marina. “While Roberto is obviously disappointed, he understands that this decision is in the long-term interests of the team,” said team principal John Booth. “We thank him for his professionalism.”

“No decision has been made regarding our 2016 driver line-up and we will continue to evaluate our options during the remainder of the season.

Rossi previously came close to making his debut for the same team last year at Spa, but an 11th-hour deal for him to replace Max Chilton fell through. He will be the first American F1 driver to compete at a grand prix weekend since Scott Speed in 2007.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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75 comments on “Alexander Rossi to replace Roberto Merhi at Manor for five races”

  1. I don’t think Mehri has done much wrong during his time at Manor. Probably is a money thing I guess.

    1. @DaveF1
      It’s also bitterly ironic, seeing as Merhi just announced he’ll retire from FR 3.5 to focus on F1. I feel sorry for him, and hope he’ll find a way back into the FR grid. He’s been far from bad there.

    2. You don’t say! :)

  2. Sounds like a last-ditch throw of the dice for Rossi – he’s been excruciatingly close to a drive several times. Nothing much to lose at this stage probably – he can’t circulate much longer in GP2 and the door at Haas seems to be shut, might as well go for broke and hope his performances catch the eye of the team bosses.

    1. Agree 100%.

      But lol at whingers whinging it’s about money. Of course it is. That’s all Manor is about; merhi and stevens are pay drivers too, duh.

    2. and yet, he might do so much better then half the f1 grid

    3. It basically gives Rossi two bites of the cherry to be eligible for a seat next year. He needs to keep his second in the GP2 points standings in order to have enough superlicence points (he currently needs 37 points and stands to gain 40). However by starting five F1 races this year he’ll be allowed to return next year when the superlicence rules come into force as drivers who’ve started at least five races in the previous season can race in 2016.

      1. quite that. And he will at least have some of that experience Haas is looking for too.

        1. I still don’t think it’s enough experience for Haas. They need someone with years driving F1 cars that can help them develop the car. Alex won’t have that yet. Give Haas 3-4 years to really get going and let Rossi drive with other teams for that time, then it’ll be a match made in Heaven.

      2. Ah, VERY valid points there. Thanks Keith!

      3. ColdFly F1 ( @coldfly ) (@)
        16th September 2015, 19:29

        ‘two bites of the cherry’ – correct @keithcollantine.
        But as we all know a cherry is swallowed in one bite. Thus I can only read form this that Rossi isn’t too convinced that he can keep 2nd place in GP2.

        PS from memory. The 5 races qualification for a Super License is only valid for the next season. Thus this 2nd cherry will be invalid after 2016!

        1. You just swallow the pit?

        2. @coldfly I think he will, but this is added security (plus it might sway Haas for next year).

          I thought it was more likely that someone else would use the 5 race loophole – e.g. Haryanto has no super-licence points and needed top 2 in GP2, yet is being mentioned as a possible 2016 Manor driver. Maybe Ferrari is pulling strings with Manor for Haas/Rossi?

          Evans’ strong comeback means he may now leapfrog Haryanto to secure the 20 points (4th) he needs, while Lynn, Gasly and Marciello are already safe. With 3rd, Sirotkin will get the 28 points he also needs, so only Haryanto from GP2’s top 8 wouldn’t have a super-licence in 2016.

          If Manor want say Wehrlein and Haryanto next year – will the FIA grant them two exceptions?

      4. Interestingly, once Rossi has started a race, that leaves Stoffel Vandoorne, Robin Frijns, Antonio Felix da Costa, Sebastien Loeb, Sam Bird, Jolyon Palmer, Esteban Ocon, Will Power and Susie Wolff remaining from the top 20 polled in “Which 18 drivers would you put in F1 in 2015?” that haven’t yet driven in an F1 race. @keithcollantine

  3. Well to be honest Manor is so slow, it could at least change a couple of drivers to give a chance for new drivers to get a grip of F1 (and possibly keep their Superlicence?).

    1. In essence, a driver Mehri-go-round. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist)

      1. @plutoniumhunter There’s only one thing you can do with a pun that bad.

        Steal it and use it on Twitter! :-)

        1. @keithcollantine :-D I’m honoured by the theft! I can’t claim ownership though – I recall it from another F1 fans website (Just noticed I spelled Merhi as Mehri – oops)

          1. @plutoniumhunter @keithcollantine I think that was the headline of a Manor press release following a race or qualifying.

        2. Sorry, mine was going to be ‘Merhi has no Manors’ but now it feels a bit like piling on. It’s got to be so tough for him right now.

          1. Keep em coming, the more the Mehri-er!

        3. @keithcollantine

          Merhi will return for the team at Sochi and Yas Marina.

          According to whom? Did Manor confirm that? Or is it just speculation?

          1. @peartree Confirmed on twitter, it’s as Rossi is driving in GP2 for those two races. These last 5 races of the season line up perfectly to make the 5 GPs needed for a superlicence while leaving 2 for GP2 commitments.

          2. @fastiesty @hunocsi @Keithcollantine Thanks for the reply. It wasn’t clear enough. I’m stealing your –@fastiesty idea.

        4. Mehri *£%& Christmas

  4. He will be the first F1 driver to compete at a grand prix weekend since Scott Speed in 2007.

    Missing the word “US”? @keithcollantine

  5. I believe this is a step closer to grab a seat at Haas for Rossi. They surely need experience, and even though it won’t be a lot of it, having an American driver in the line up would be good for the US market, and we won’t be a rookie anymore.

    BTW @keithcollantine I think you forgot to write the nationality in the last sentence

    1. Once the Haas door got shut in front of Alex, he knew he had to look beyond Haas. There are other plausible teams for Rossi. It took 7 years of hard work to get this far from the FBMW World Final in 2008, to the defunct Formula Master,GP3, WSR and GP2 just to reach to this pinnacle of Motorsport. He was very close to driver for Dale Coyne Indy Car team. But Racing Engineering gave him another chance.

      COTA promoter Tavo Hellmund and NY billionare James Carney were poised to purchase Manor, but it seems that Hellmund may have contributed into giving him those 5 races.

      Some drivers may have to rely on sponsors. But at the same time, sponsors must have limitations based on the driver’s performance. But Rossi has earned it on hard work.

      That is my kind of driver.

      1. lol, ‘murican. Nice sentiment, pity it ain’t reality.

        1. Earning a race seat on hard work isn’t reality? Excuse me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure Rossi has just done exactly that.

  6. Another driver coming in who’s been around forever and was never good enough for F1. Shame.

  7. OmarR-Pepper - Vettel 41 wins!!! For Jules (@)
    16th September 2015, 16:38

    Excellent timing right? He will race in Mexico and the US. So I really hope it means some cash coming for poor Manor.

  8. Fantastic news for American F1 fans. We finally have a home driver with some talent. He is a better driver than Scott Speed ever has been and he is also better than Merhi IMO. I know he bought the seat, but that is also good for F1 as it sees Manor get some more cash. And as Keith already says, it basically guaruntees him a super-license for next season.

  9. Surprise, surprise. (not)

    Seriously, seeing a new driver on the grid will be nice. Merhi has been OK recently, but not spectacular or anything like that, compared to Stevens. I look forward to see how good Rossi is.

  10. I guess the logic here is that Rossi wants some form of insurance: if he loses second place in the GP2 standings, he won’t have enough license points to drive in Formula 1 in 2016. So if he does exactly five races, he doesn’t need to worry about that. The weird thing here is, the odds that Rossi will lose second place in the GP2 championship are relatively small. He’s 38 points ahead of Sirotkin with three more rounds to go, so I don’t see why it’s necessary.

    On the other side of the coin, 2015 is turning into a disaster for Merhi. In Formula Renault 3.5 he competitve, but instead he did a mediocre job, got a race ban and effectively gave up his seat. In Formula 1, of course he can’t do much driving the least competitive car on the grid, but even Stevens seemed to be getting the upper hand lately. Losing his F1 seat as well must be a huge blow.

    Returning to Rossi, if he is willing to pay Manor to drive in five rounds of the championship while it’s not directly nessecary, that indicates to me that he has got some very good reasons to think he will be in Formula 1 next year. It looks like Haas will go for Gutierrez/Vergne and someone else experienced (Magnussen for instance), so it’s more likely Rossi ends up at Manor then. Would also explain why “Roberto understands that this decision is in the long-term interests of the team”.

    1. At the very least, I expect Rossi to be reserve driver at Haas with some Friday practice sessions.

      On the other hand, if he manages to categorically out-perform Stevens, then he’ll get the attention of the rest of the grid, and it won’t hurt to do it in a Ferrari powered car.

    2. I agree for most part. However, in regards to Sirotkin, he’s really been on charge lately and if he wasn’t taken out by Lynn in Monza, Rossi’s lead would have been much less by now. I imagine he was in the talks with Manor already before Monza, so he felt the threat. Also, even though there are 3 rounds, each of them is 2 races, so there are 6 occasions to score points.

  11. I sure hope he picks no. 46

    1. I said last year in Belgium he should have picked 76 to compliment Jules’ 17 and form 1776.

      1. You’re right. And he is more that getting a race seat. That is Jules’ seat.

    2. drivers that get a drive mid-season are not allowed to choose a number. they run the teams assigned reserve numbers (which are 42 & 43 in manors case).

      1. Those number are perfect. And I believe he used #42 when he tested at Spa last year.

        And those numbers are from familiars.

        #42 – The late NFL player Pat Tillman who gave up his NFL career to serve in the military only to die in combat in 2003.
        #43 – King of NASCAR Richard Petty.

        Those numbers are well suited for Rossi.

    3. Stop, it’s confusing enough already!

      1. My comment above is a reply to @buj , I didn’t realise the other posts were answers rather than stand alone comments, an adjustment is required or we will all have to quote the post we are responding to.

  12. Is he running #46?


    1. Nope, although that would be quite funny)) He’s taken number 53

  13. Here’s hoping he actually gets to drive this time.

  14. This is a decision by Sergio Machionne on behalf of Gene Haas as Ferrari have political power due to money being owed for engines, they are trying him for 5 races to just make sure he is ok for Haas 2016.

    1. @hugomac Exactly, and at the very least you’d expect Rossi to be Haas’ reserve and test driver next year if not racing for the team.

  15. I want Manor gone. What are they doing exactly in Formula 1? It is embarrassing.

    1. This is a rather vague statement. Can you elaborate please?

    2. They paid their entry money – they have just as much right to race as other teams.

      Do McLaren or Sauber really deserve to be there, given they’ve also been fairly anonymous rolling roadblocks?

    3. I fail to see what´s so embarrassing about Manor. Have you ever heard of Lola, Life or Eurobrun? Manor is a pinnacle of professionalism compared to those teams.

      1. Add any Colin Kolles-led team to your list.

    4. Yes it’s embarassing how slow they are, but what did you expect? They are running 2014 spec engines for crying out load with a chassis that probably has seen better days and only gets upgrades every four months or so.

      With Manor it’s all about 2016, then we’ll see if they still have what it takes. This year they are just driving around to get to 2016, nothing more, nothing less. They don’t care, they’re just here to survive this testing year.

      If, and that is still a big IF, they get their hands on those Merc. engines then expect them to make some serious strives forward. With a possible Rossi/Wherlein line-up they could have a decent and exciting line-up. There is definitly a future for them but we’ll have to wait and see if they can be competitve and F1 worthy.

    5. bernie don’t you have a pr session tomorrow

  16. We really could do with a US driver in F1 but I don’t think Rossi is quite special enough. He has to look good against Stevens as a minimum, I guess, which seems to mean better than Mehri. Glad it’s not my money though.

    1. I dunno… Rossi has pulled off some pretty impressive moves this season in GP2. He’s obviously got some natural speed, and he hasn’t shown a tendency to drive *through* the other cars… So he’s up on Maldonado, at least. ;)

      1. But pulling off impressive moves isn’t really going to be too feasible in a Manor, as he’ll only be racing against his team mate and the blue flags… So to me this is clearly designed to get him seat time and make him a driver with “recent F1 experience” just before Haas finalize their lineup. It’ll be interesting to see what if any effect this has on Haas’ driver lineup decisions.

  17. I find it hard to believe that Rossi is, technically, in his first full season in GP2, assuming he sees it out. Second place in GP2 is more than enough to warrant a seat in Formula 1, and he’s seemed on the verge of an F1 seat for what has felt like an eternity. He deserves it.

  18. Yay, got my 2015 prediction right.

  19. I’ll believe it when I see it…isn’t this the third time he’s been entered to race in an F1 event?!

    Very pleased to see him get a chance at last. Good guy, bright bloke and in particular a decent US driver. Good opportunity for him, and Will Stevens too. Whichever driver beats the other will have achieved something.

    Wonder who’ll drive in the other two races? (Presumably Russia & Abu Dhabi where there’s GP2 going on as well) Mehri again? Chilton again? Or someone new that might help solve the mystery of who’s driving for them next year, and with what engine.

    1. @bullfrog The last 5 races don’t clash with the DTM, if Mercedes want to make use of the loophole to secure Wehrlein a super-licence for 2016. If that happened, then I could see Stevens driving the two races that are down for Merhi.

    2. I think the super-license-less Pascal Wehrlein would be a good bet.

    3. @bullfrog according to Joe Saward, it will be Roberto.

  20. To be fair to Mehri, the way he was announced at the beginning of the season I’d have laughed if you’d told me he would get 15 races in this season.

    In Melbourne it very much sounded like “yeah, he’s in the car today, if someone else turns up tomorrow he probably won’t be” type low-key press release.

  21. Statistically, Alexander Rossi is actually a step down from F3 champion Merhi, after all, he has reportedly been turned down by Haas team principal Gunther Steiner. Rossi is in his sixth season of top tier single seater racing, and yet still has no title to show for his efforts. It has only really been the US flag that has prevented him from clattering through the experience ceiling.

    For Rossi to have been considered a remotely viable option for Haas, he needed to be closer to Vandoorne this season; with his experience, he certainly should have been capable of being closer. I certainly wouldn’t be confident of seeing him able to compete with Stevens until at least his third race.

    Not that statistics especially have a good record in predicting how unproven drivers will perform!

    1. Black 'n' Blue15
      16th September 2015, 22:50

      +1 I’d lean towards your point of view on Rossi. A lot of people think with the Haas Project, that the aim is to promote the sport and their inroad into succeeding in it, for the American audience when it’s rather about, according to Gene, promoting Haas automation tools outside the States. And that in itself further brings to our attention the notion of F1 in the modern day continuing to become the bi-product of corporate entities and their lofty self-serving ambitions. Whats more is that I can’t see how Rossi, or any American driver for that matter, could fit the bill of promoting the Haas brand in Europe and Asia. It doesn’t make any sense does it?. When the guy in charge of the band essentially says no, the drummer’s hardly going to be drumming away elsewhere in the hope he’s going to get the call five gigs later. If I where Rossi I’d take a flight back across the atlantic, and push for a seat in a series that actually wants to have more Americans involved without a price: Indycar.

      1. I completely agree my friend, that is an excellent post.

        Further to your post, I would question just how significant an American driver is for the American market without headline results. Rossi had been billed as the final ingredient in F1’s route to market in the US, now that there is a US GP and a homegrown team. But even if he had got the Haas drive, how much publicity is Rossi going to generate in a car that is unlikely to score points in 2016? I don’t remember any “Scott Speed-mania”? There were Spanish drivers before Alonso, but it was only seeing Fernando succeed that inspired the Spanish fans. Home fans want success, not anonymity.

        And that is why it is a shame more talented young Americans don’t race in Europe rather than the conventional national pathways. Yes, Josef Newgarden looked out of his depth in his single season of GP3, but with experience, and on the basis of his stellar 2015 season in IndyCar, I think he could have at least been the equal of Rossi. Why should American drivers come to Europe when IndyCar is ready and waiting with open arms? Because F1 needs a competitive American prospect, and therefore in the highly political race for an F1 seat, Americans can consider themselves as having a USP.

  22. I think Merhi knew he only had the seat as long as there wasn’t someone else around willing to pay more for it. He did well to keep it as long as he did. Manor have to survive, and they will only have employed 3 drivers the whole year. That’s not too bad a situation.

  23. I’ve never been impressed by Rossi. I just don’t see the talent in him. Sure he’s doing well in GP2 right now but even then he’s still getting beaten by Vandoorne by a serious margin.

    But to be fair I was expecting this move earlier. We all know Mehri didn’t have much money (probably none), at least until the team found a driver with money willing to suffer at the back of the grid with that horrendous pace of the MR03B.

    So either something has suddenly changed and it is essential he drives to get his superlicense or he’s just taking a chance, putting all his money on these last five races.

    If it is the first then I guess he’s gotten a contract with Manor for next year and they want to ensure he secures his superliscence since there’s a real chance of him losing his second place in GP2. If it’s the latter then I fear we’ll be seeing him in WEC or Indycar next year.

    I wish him the best, may he prove me wrong.

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