F1 ‘reserve’ driver wins 100th Indy 500

Formula 1 reserve driver Alexander Rossi has just won the 100th running of the Indy 500. It amazing enough to win the Indycar race but doing so on its 100th running and not even having a ride just a few months ago, well, that’s something completely different. It’s a bit like Lewis Hamilton winning the Monaco Grand Prix earlier today…winning the biggest race of the season is a big deal and both were won by F1 drivers.

Rossi left the US to seek his fortune in open-wheel racing in Europe and while he has been in GP2 and drove in Formula 1, he was relegated to a reserve driver role in the small Manor Racing team who are back markers in the series. He drove for the team briefly during the North and South American stint of the 2015 season only to lose the ride to Rio Haryanto for 2016.

The Indy 500 win shines a heavy light on the reality of pay drivers in F1. I would be hard pressed to suggest that Haryanto could have pulled off an Indy 500 win and yet talent alone is not what secures a ride in F1 due to the pay-driver format that has become so pervasive in motorsport these days. F1 is not alone in that, many drivers have had to buy their seat in Indycar as well. There is always someone willing to pay for the privilege of driving a race car.

Rossi did very well in 2015 given the performance of the car and he’s clearly a very talented driver as today’s fuel mileage win proves. I said at the time he was leading mid-race that he’s looking good and while I was slightly reprimanded for not admitting that he was out of sequence, I’ve been watching racing enough to know that being out of sequence can pay dividends later on and it did. So there, Delphic Oracle I am. Don’t ask me for lottery numbers, that’s a game for the mathematically ignorant.

Rossi Alexander Manor Racing 2016

Alexander isn’t the first F1 driver to cross over to the series and one that will always stick with me is when Jim Clark won the race the year of my birth. Alexander’s fortunes in F1 have been with the small teams which are volatile int eh best of times and with the implosion of Caterham and Marussia, his future was very uncertain at several points in his F1 career.

So what is the likelihood of Rossi getting a full ride in F1 now that he’s won the Indy 500? It still will come down to money but can today’s win garner new supporters for his F1 efforts? Many fans felt he should have been given the second seat at American F1 team, Haas F1, but that was handed to Mexican Esteban Gutierrez. Others feel Manor should capitulate and give him Haryanto’s seat.

I might argue that he could do far better in Indycar with Andretti Autosport and will have support from a good team and ownership. It may not be F1 but few make it to the level of Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel or Fernando Alonso but there is nothing wrong with a robust career in a terrific series like Indycar and what better way to announce your arrival than to win the 100th running of the Indy 500.

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charlie white

I hope Alex carries that shiny Borg-Warner trophy with him when Manor Racing and the rest of the F1 circus show up in Montreal. “How do you like me now?”, asks the Manor team reserve driver as Manor tries to find a way to replace Haryanto’s shrinking petro-dollars. Note to FOM and Bernie Ecclestone: He’s not coming back. We’re keeping him for ourselves. Another opportunity lost in America.

Chuck Voelter



This just goes to show you the talent that Rossi has. And, not just talent, but the intelligence to implement the strategy he was given. He did everything Brian Herta told him to do and the result speaks for itself. Being in a quality ride he was able to show what he was capable of. Congrats to Rossi!

Tim C.


Cory Brown

Manor and Haas have likely missed their opportunity. Staying with a top team in the US makes a lot more sense. It would take a top F1 team to pull Rossi back to F1…and if they were smart they would, but sadly I don’t think it will happen.

charlie white

I don’t begrudge Haas for not choosing Rossi as a driver. The team needed a driver that could develop their brand new car and Romain Grojean fits that bill. And Gutierrez, also more experienced than Rossi, came with the Ferrari engines along with TelMex sponsorship. But Manor, that’s a whole other question

Paul KieferJr

Rossi may decide to give Red Bull a call. ;-)


I see the wink, but have a question for conversation. Webber signed with RBR at 39-31, Coulthard at 33-34. They haven’t signed an experienced (F1) driver since. All four a currently very young. Ricciardo signed at about 20 and has been with them for six years. With their current line up, do you think they’d consider Rossi too aged for their program?

Tom Firth

Definitely, for F1 at least. Mr Marko chooses drivers in F3 or earlier than that in the careers, Are Red Bull backed drivers in British F4 this year so yes way way to late for Red Bull consideration for F1.

It was wise to sign Webber and Coulthard to develop the early years, What’s the need for hiring highly experienced F1 drivers when you already have a front running team? Unless you have a radical change, which is why Mclaren has gone for experience with Honda.

Meine Postma

Soo.. the Indy 500 isn’t what it used to be?
(Or maybe I’m just mean)


Just think what a proven race winner in F1 would do.

Step forward Pastor Maldonado.


Remember Mario Morales? It would be like that.


Please, no. We don’t need any more massive pile ups on the ovals. R.I.P. D.W.

Junipero Mariano

I guess F1’s lift and coast came in handy! ;)


I mentioned this yesterday after he won, but when Nico won Le Mans, on his first attempt, the F1 community lauded him, and rightfully so. I really hope Alexander receives similar recognition among the F1 media for his achievements yesterday.


I might get some heat for this, but I honestly don’t think Rossi really deserves a seat in F1.

Winning Indy, while impressive and an amazing achievement, doesn’t in any way prove that he deserves and F1 seat.

The last time he won a series was Formula BMW in 2008. Just looking at his results and he doesn’t really come close. Even Pastor Maldonado won the GP2 championship.

He’s a talented driver, no doubt, but he’s not F1 material, in my opinion.