Belgium Grand Prix: British driver Max Chilton to miss grand prix as Marussia 'sell' his ride

The team cited 'contractual issues' with Chilton

As Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button prepare once again for battle on their favourite circuit, the third British driver, Max Chilton, will be cooling his heels in the Ardennes. His Marussia team surprised the paddock here today by announcing that the American driver Alex Rossi, signed earlier this month as their reserve driver, will race the Marussia MR03 this weekend before Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix.

The team cited “contractual issues” with Chilton, who has raced in F1 for them since the start of the 2013 season. Rossi will be a popular stand-in while those are resolved as American parties are currently negotiating to take leading shareholding roles with the Banbury team. A statement released by Chilton’s public relations agents said he had stepped aside because Marussia were short of funds and Rossi’s sponsors were prepared to pay for his ride.

“Max Chilton has volunteered to step out of his race seat this weekend in Spa, Belgium, to allow the team to attract much-needed funds by selling his seat,” the statement said. “He will attend the race and be on hand to support the team in any way possible.”

Rossi, 22, has previously driven for Caterham in Friday morning test sessions, making a good impression each time, and won in GP2 for that team in Abu Dhabi late in 2013.

“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 debut in this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix,” team principal John Booth said. “Naturally we hope to resume normal service with respect to our established race driver line-up as soon as possible, but for now we wish Alexander well for the weekend ahead and we look forward to seeing him in action.”

Rossi’s opportunity is a major boost for his career, which seemed endangered when the recent change of ownership at Caterham saw him sidelined.

“It goes without saying that I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to race in Formula One for the first time and I cannot thank the Marussia F1 Team enough for the faith they are demonstrating in me,” the Californian said.

“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.” The last American to race in F1 was Scott Speed back in 2007 with Toro Rosso.

Caterham have also made a change of their own, replacing Japanese hotshoe Kamui Kobayashi with triple Le Mans winner and current World Endurance Championship co-champion André Lotterer from Germany.

Meanwhile, points leader Nico Rosberg admitted that there had been plenty of fallout chez Mercedes after his team-mate Lewis Hamilton refused to agree to a controversial order to let him overtake during the recent Hungarian GP, where the team’s non-executive chairman Niki Lauda later dismissed the order as a mistake.

“I gather it was a bit of a mess afterwards, after Hungary, so it’s best I don’t add too much and continue to not give too many details,” Rosberg said. “In general, of course, we discussed it after the race – just because it’s important to review a situation like that and know how to move forward.”

And he added, enigmatically: “Now we’re moving forward but, of course, I have also learned various things from that race which I will try to adapt for the future.”

Mercedes have said there will be no team orders this weekend.

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