Formula One backmarkers Marussia announced a very late driver change earlier today, when Alexander Rossi was brought in in place of Max Chilton.
In a press release, the Anglo-Russian team commented that Chilton has been replaced while “contractual issues are resolved.” Rossi will now partner points scorer Jules Bianchi.
A statement from The Sports PR Company, who represent Chilton, later countered that by revealing he had “volunteered to step out of his race seat for this weekend’s race in Spa, Belgium to allow the team to attract much needed funds by selling his seat.”
While Marussia’s statement may be as transparent as reasonably well-manufactured glass, it is unlikely the team will be enamoured by The Sport PR Company’s rather frank response.
It also appears as if the change came very late, as just over twenty-four hours ago, the Briton tweeted that he had arrived in Spa for the race weekend. Chilton will be on site for media commitments and technical briefings.
It is no secret that the team have faced ongoing financial difficulties since their debut in 2010; however it is thought their current position may be particularly perilous at this time. In a statement, Marussia team principal John Booth commented that, “Naturally we hope to resume normal service with respect to our established race driver line-up as soon as possible.”
Rossi was signed as Marussia’s reserve and development driver last month, following his split from the Caterham F1 team. Booth added, “Although it was not our intention to offer Alexander the possibility to race this season, in light of the circumstances we are pleased to be providing him with the opportunity to make his Grand Prix début at this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix in Spa-Franchorchamps.”
Naturally Rossi was delighted with the news. “It goes without saying that I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to race in Formula 1 for the first time and I cannot thank the Marussia F1 Team enough for the faith they are demonstrating in me,” said the American.
It will also represent a marked step-up for Rossi, who until the weekend of the German Grand Prix had been competing in the GP2 Series with first Caterham and later Campos. “It’s a very big moment for me and there’s a lot to prepare in a short space of time, but on the other hand I have felt ready for this for quite a while now. It is also exciting to be given this opportunity at such a fantastic and historical circuit as Spa-Francorchamps. I can’t wait to drive the MR03 from tomorrow and I hope to reward the team with a solid race weekend.”
Whether Chilton returns for Monza may depend upon whether investors move in quickly.