Caterham Racing have announced that American driver Alexander Rossi will take over the seat of the team's #15 car with immediate effect at this weekend's round at Bahrain, replacing Ma Qing Hua in the GP2 team for the remainder of the year.
"Alexander has all the attributes needed for a racing driver to be successful at the very highest levels of motorsport," said Caterham Racing Team Principal Mia Sharizman on Wednesday. "He is quick, he has very good racecraft and his technical insights will help us develop our car from the first laps he drives this weekend in Bahrain."
"I look forward to racing this weekend in Bahrain and getting started with the Caterham Racing GP2 team," responded Rossi, 21, from Auburn in California. "My goal is to win and Caterham Racing has shown in its first couple of years of GP2 that they can do this. My plan is to carry this trend forward."
Rossi raced with Caterham in the 2011 GP2 Final, a one-off non-championship exhibition event held in Abu Dhabi after the end of that year's regular season. He also competed for Ocean Racing Technology and Team Meritus in the 2009/10 GP2 Asia Series, which has since been folded into the main championship. More recently, Rossi has competed in Formula Renault 3.5 Series with ISR Racing, Fortec Motorsport and Arden Caterham.
However Bahrain will be Rossi's first full race appearance in the full feeder series, having most recently taken part in post-season testing at the end of 2012 with Caterham in Jerez and Barcelona. He'll be working alongside Sergio Canamasas who retains the wheel of the team's #14 car.
Ma Qing Hua made his own GP2 début at the opening round of the year in Malaysia last month. He qualified in 20th position but finished off the lead lap in his first feature race and was then forced to sit out the sprint race the following day because of gastroenteritis.
The 25-year-old from Shanghai has also been dropped as the team's F1 test and reserve driver by the F1 squad, after taking part last weekend in FP1 in his native China. He will be replaced at Bahrain by the team's former F1 regular driver Heikki Kovalainen, who was runner-up in the 2005 GP2 Series to that year's champion Nico Rosberg. (See separate story
Alongside Kovalainen, Rossi will also continue in his role as one of Caterham's F1 test and reserve drivers in 2013. The American is due to make his 2013 Grand Prix race weekend début in Friday Free Practice 1 at Montreal, Canada on June 7, the seventh round of this year's world championship.
"I know the team well and I'm fitter than I've ever been," said Rossi. "A GP2 programme complimenting my F1 duties for Caterham F1 Team is a good balance and I'm confident we'll do a great job together."
The team said that these moves are the result of a 'restructuring process' within the Caterham squad, and that Ma would remain part of the Caterham driver roster with the team working to find him a new race seat elsewhere, although it's not clear whether that will be in GP2 or an alternative championship.
"We're also working closely with Ma to secure an alternative plan for him in 2013," said Sharizman. "He performed very well in China for the F1 team and that has opened up a number of very interesting new opportunities for him and us and we'll announce a revised plan for him soon.”