In an unexpected turn of events, North Star Racing have announced that Judson Sikes will not race for the team in the upcoming Mexican and Brazilian V-Prix, and will instead be replaced by the team's reserve driver Gabriele García.
"This is not a decision we've made lightly at all," team principal Nick Forrest told the gathered media outside the North Star motorhome in the Mexico City paddock, "but unfortunately Judson just hasn't been performing to the level we need him to be, with the position the team finds itself in. He's had some bad luck over the season, admittedly, but he has put himself into positions that compromise the race on occasion, and more often than not, he just hasn't been able to convert the opportunities he's had in the way Johan has."
Given how close the batle for 7th in the Constructors' standings currently is between North Star, Lopez and Phoenix, bringing in a racer with as little top-flight experience as García was greeted with skepticism from analysts. Forrest, however, believes the Brazilian to be the correct choice. "I think it's worth remembering that people initially weren't sure about him when he was subbed in while Johan recovered from his Malaysia injuries," he reminded reporters, "but Gabriele drove superbly straight out of the gate, and he is already a Formula Virtual points scorer with just two races under his belt."
"The grid may have shuffled around a little, it's likely to be more of a challenge for him, but we've every belief that he can produce another couple of races as he did in Britain and France earlier in the year."
"It is tough for me to be brought back in at such a late stage in the season, everybody is aware of this," García elaborated in the press pen later in the day, "but everyone at the team, they have shown their faith in me, and I have just as much faith in all of them."
"I'm very excited to be racing at my home race for the first time," he continued, "and it does help me prepare for next year a bit more, but for now we can only hope everything goes smoothly for us, and we get the chance to deliver the results we all need right now."
This decision appears to have brought Judson Sikes' Formula Virtual career to a slightly premature end, after four seasons in the sport. The Russian was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.