Chilton dropped by Marussia
Max Chilton will be replaced by Alexander Rossi at Marussia for the Belgian GP while 'contractual issues are resolved'.
The news, underlining the fragility of the finances at the back of the grid, was delivered in a stark press release by the Marussia team on Thursday afternoon and then swiftly followed by a statement from Chilton's management company which declared that 'Max has volunteered to step out of his race seat for this weekend's race in Spa to allow the team to attract much needed funds by selling his seat. Marussia are currently in talks with several new investors and it is expected that the situation will be resolved before the next race in the F1 calendar in Monza.'
Ironically, Chilton's career in F1 has been persistently blighted by slights that he himself should only be regarded as a 'pay driver' rather than, as is the norm, a paid driver.
The unexpected announcement - the third bombshell driver change this week following Toro Rosso's decision to hire Max Verstappen for 2015 and Andre Lotterer's short-term inclusion at Caterham at the expense of Kamui Kobayashi - was delivered less than twenty-four hours before Friday morning's practice session at Spa which will signal the resumption of the F1 season following the three-week summer break.
There was certainly no indication that Chilton was poised to be dropped, with the Englishman marking his journey to the Ardennes circuit on Wednesday with a series of enthusiastic travel updates from his official Twitter account.
"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," said team boss John Booth in a terse press release.
American Rossi, after two seasons as a reserve driver at Caterham, only joined Marussia at the end of July but is now set to make his full F1 debut at the age of 22 at arguably the most revered circuit on the calendar.
"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 Rossi.
"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."
After scoring their first points in F1 during May's Monaco GP, Marussia are currently ninth in the eleven-team Constructors' Championship.
Marussia's statement in full:'The Marussia F1 Team will provide Alexander Rossi with the opportunity to make his Grand Prix debut at this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix in Spa-Francorchamps.
'Alexander will race alongside Jules Bianchi, substituting for Max Chilton while contractual issues are resolved.
'Alexander joined the Team as Reserve Driver last month, the announcement coming at the Hungarian Grand Prix. He has taken part in a number of Friday morning Free Practice 1 sessions with his previous team but this weekend will see him 'racing' a Formula 1 car for the first time.'