It should come as no surprise that he got booted for a driver with a multimillion-dollar backing from a petro-state.
Remember that weird Manor Formula One arrangement that was rumored where American F1 driver Alexander Rossi would get a third of the time in the car? That didn’t happen, and nor did anything else in F1. So, Rossi is switching to IndyCar for 2016, where he just got the 2015 Rookie of the Year’s seat at Andretti Autosport.
Indonesian driver Rio Haryanto ultimately got the Manor F1 seat. Haryanto will become Indonesia’s first Formula One driver with significant backing from Indonesian state-owned oil company Pertamina. Racer writes that none of the other drivers being considered could quite compete with an entire country’s potential for funding. According to PaddockTalk, a $5.5 million down payment from Pertamina secured Haryanto’s spot, and the country/company has promised $15 million over the remainder of 2016.
As previously pointed out, a Formula One seat is a pretty questionable investment for a developing country with widespread poverty back home. Haryanto’s racing record is somewhat comparable to Rossi’s, as he finished 4th in the GP2 Series last year where Rossi finished 2nd. However, with oil prices expected to remain low for the near future, I’m not sure that $15 million guarantee is such a solid bet. Ask recently-ousted, Venezuelan oil-backed Pastor Maldonado about that one.
Well, at least we’ve still got an American team on the grid, I guess?
In place of the F1 drive, Rossi is heading to a uniquely American series: IndyCar. According to Fox Sports, Andretti Autosport confirmed today that he will take over the No. 98 Honda—a car that came over when Bryan Herta Autosport merged with the Andretti team. Rossi told Fox that he hasn’t given up on Formula One, however, he’d prefer to keep driving something in the meantime. Rossi explained to Racer:
F1 wouldn’t be in a driving capacity this year but I’ve been in Europe since I was 17 and it’s all I know. My focus is still F1 and it’s important to be included and keep my foot in the door.
With all eyes on the hundredth running of the Indianapolis 500 this year, IndyCar really isn’t that bad of a choice. He also joins two of America’s F1 drivers from the past 25 years at Andretti Autosport: Global Rallycross driver Scott Speed and CEO Michael Andretti. Likewise, Rossi will compete against another ex-F1 driver from the same F1 backmarker team. Max Chilton, formerly of Marussia F1 and the doomed Nissan LMP1 project, will be driving in IndyCar for Chip Ganassi Racing this year.
The only downside? This means that 2015 IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves is out of a drive. Chaves drove the No. 98 last year and was gutted to find out earlier this week that he wouldn’t be returning for this year with less than a month before the start of the season.
Chaves came into IndyCar last year in the single-car Bryan Herta Autosport effort after winning the driver’s championship in Indy Lights in 2014. As NBC Sports points out, his fifteenth place season finish last year doesn’t tell the full story of how he overperformed but frequently encountered bad luck. Hopefully that also means he’ll land on his feet somewhere, but this is pretty short notice for him to find out.
Chaves’ bad luck persisted in the offseason, with Racer reporting that funding had a lot to do with his ouster from the No. 98 car. A team sponsor is believed to have defaulted on a payment, leading to a shortfall in Andretti Autosport’s budget for this year. Chaves originally brought a one-time $750,000 graduation prize from Indy Lights in 2015, but as a second-year driver, he no longer brought that to the table.
Funding! We all wish it didn’t have this big of an effect on racing, such that the most talented drivers could always get the best shot at the biggest-name series, but unfortunately, race cars are expensive, and reality bites hard.
Photo credits: Getty Images
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.