* Chilton returns a day after being replaced
* Move dashes American driver Rossi’s hopes of F1 race debut (Adds detail)
By Alan Baldwin
SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium, Aug 22 (Reuters) - Marussia reinstated British driver Max Chilton for the Belgian Grand Prix on Friday, a day after the team dropped him, in a U-turn that dashed American Alexander Rossi’s hopes of a race debut.
The Russian-licensed team said in a terse statement that Chilton, 23, was again their nominated driver “following a change in circumstances”.
No details were given for the twist in a saga that has raised many questions and provided little in the way of explanation.
Marussia, who have the smallest budget of any team, had announced on Thursday that reserve driver Rossi would be replacing Chilton due to unspecified ‘contractual issues’ - interpreted by many as shorthand for payments not being received.
Chilton, in an unusual statement issued on his behalf, had suggested however that he was stepping aside voluntarily to help the team attract ‘much-needed funds by selling his seat’.
Why that move should no longer be necessary, and why there was such a disconnect between the two versions, remained a mystery in a sport full of half-truths and euphemism with inconvenient details carefully glossed over.
“I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to comment on the details of the contractual issues because that is confidential between parties involved,” said sporting director Graeme Lowdon.
“There is nothing we can really say on that. This is a result of a change in circumstances.”
Rossi, who would have been the first U.S. driver to start a grand prix since Scott Speed’s last appearance for Toro Rosso in 2007, took part in the day’s first practice session but Chilton was back for the afternoon.
The American joined Marussia only last month, after a change of ownership at his previous team Caterham.
“Alex acquitted himself incredibly well,” said Lowdon.
“He was probably quite surprised to be called up to stand in for a grand prix quite so quick - but he did an extremely good job with that and that is his role as a professional race driver - so I cannot speak too highly of him really.”
Lowdon said the team was working on the assumption that the lineup would not be changed again this season, although there were no guarantees.
“That is certainly what we are working towards. We have seen that there are things that can cause hiccups and changes in that - and that is just how things are,” he added. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Patrick Johnston and Tim Collings)