Alexander Rossi lost out in the competition for the second Manor seat to Rio Haryanto, on the basis that the Indonesian had a great deal more money behind him. That’s a blow for Rossi, but also a blow for Formula 1 because if Rossi falls by the wayside, it will be at least five years before we see another American properly prepared to race in F1. It would not be very smart for the sport to let that happen, but then there is no strategic thinking going on, so it is no great surprise.
The good news for F1 is that Rossi is not a quitter. He’s a tough cookie. He’s been through the wringer in F1 a fair bit already and he’s still there, fighting for a full time drive. There is no question that right now as a racing driver, Alexander is the better option than Haryanto, but it’s another story when it comes to money. So what does he do now? He wants to stay in the F1 orbit, and wants to keep racing. Stoffel Vandoorne is doing that by being McLaren reserve driver and racing in Japan’s Super Formula, which is a good place to prepare for F1. There is one decent seat left in Japan, with Kazuyoshi Hoshino’s Lenovo Team Impul, one of the leading Toyota teams. There are only seven races and so Rossi could do that and still be present in F1 as a test and reserve driver, like Vandoorne is doing.
He could also go to the United States, where Michael Andretti has a seat going in IndyCar, following the merging of Bryan Herta’s operation into Andretti Autosport to give the team a solid fourth car. That would give him some profile in the US, but would still allow him time to do some F1 stuff. Dale Coyne Racing also has a vacancy, but the Andretti seat is probably the better option.
In Europe, there is nothing along the same lines and Alexander is not yet ready to go down the sports car route, although a factory WEC drive is always a good long term option for those who give up their F1 dreams.
In terms of test drives in F1, there is obviously a job at Manor, where he knows the team well. If either of the other drivers underperforms there is a good chance for Rossi in 2017. There is also potential, I believe, at Force India and one day Gene Haas might get round to deciding that it would be wise to have an Anerican on his books. Having said that, Rossi and Esteban Gutierrez don’t exactly form a mutual appreciation society, and haven’t since Formula BMW days, so that might be awkward.