Manor, you chose poorly. After Rio Haryanto’s funding started to run out—the same funding that landed him a Manor Formula One drive instead of current Manor reserve driver Alexander Rossi—and Rossi won the Indianapolis 500, Manor offered Rossi the seat, reports Autosport, but Rossi turned it down.
Haryanto’s F1 seat has been in limbo for quite some time, as his primary sponsor—Indonesian state-owned oil firm Pertamina—was only able to cough up the bucks through the Hungarian Grand Prix, per PlanetF1. Seeing the gravy train coming to a stop, Manor was keen on finding a replacement.
Fortunately for Manor, one of their reserve drivers was getting a lot of easily marketable attention from winning the Indianapolis 500: Alexander Rossi. Rossi had driven for Manor at the end of 2015 and was a prime candidate for the 2016 seat when he was pushed aside for Haryanto’s funding.
Manor valued Rossi’s contribution to the team, though, so they kept him on for the year as a reserve driver. As part of that deal, Rossi gets the first right of refusal on an open Manor seat this year.
But Rossi declined the invite Manor gave him at Hungary to drive in F1 for the rest of the season, explaining to Autosport:
My management and I are in constant communications with Manor and we knew there might be an opportunity to race for the last half of the 2016 season.
We gave it careful thought but declined the race seat due to my IndyCar contract.
That’s what happens when you overlook someone who had already been driving for you to chase a big check written that’s heavily dependent on the price of oil. I’m just saying.
Manor’s musical chairs after the 2015 season may have had something to do with Rossi’s decision. Rossi continued to Autosport:
Last year I did a partial F1 season, which was very successful.
When I didn’t get the full time seat in 2016, this created a “Y” in the road where now I cannot take that risk again.
I’ve invested most of my career in F1 and I would love to continue but as I’ve said all year, an F1 deal must be right.
Fortunately for him, Rossi has both F1 and IndyCar offers for 2017, which allows him to stick to his IndyCar commitment and wait for just the right F1 drive.
After all, Rossi’s current IndyCar ride is at least competitive, and the last three IndyCar races of the season conflict with F1. While getting seat time and physically being there and available in the F1 paddock is also good, Manor still consistently brings up the back of the field.
Rossi has offers not only from Manor, but with one other Formula One team, per Autosport. In IndyCar, Andretti would like to keep him around past this year’s one-year deal to run the team’s joint entry with Bryan Herta Autosport. Rossi also mentions “offers” that he “can’t elaborate on” right now, so there’s a good chance other IndyCar teams would like to hire him away from Andretti.
Correction: This article originally said Pertamina was Malaysian, not Indonesian. This has since been fixed above.