Jules Bianchi has signed up to Ferrari on a contract believed to be for three years. This is the beginning of the young driver programme which team principal Stefano Domenicali spoke about last summer.
“Jules is tied to the Maranello squad with a multi-year contract, confirming Ferrari’s commitment to young talent, a policy of which Felipe Massa is a prime example. Further and more far reaching initiatives will be established in the near future,” said a statement on the Ferrari website.
Bianchi, 20, is from a racing background. His grandfather Mauro was a successful GT driver and his uncle Lucien won the 1968 Le Mans 24 hours. Bianchi is managed by Nicolas Todt. He is currently on the second day of testing in Jerez with Ferrari, where he set the ninth fastest time today. He has done 200 laps over the last two days, almost 1,000 kilometres. Britain’s Gary Paffett was fastest for McLaren. Tomorrow Bianchi will hand the car over to three other young hopefuls.
The plan is for Bianchi to contest the GP2 series with Todt’s ART team next season, “It’s the team I won the Euro F3 championship with, ” said Bianchi, “And my goal will be to finish in the top three. Only by doing that can I hope to progress into Formula 1.”
Ferrari does not tend to give race seats to young drivers, they need a few years’ experience, so Bianchi will have to be farmed out to another team, as Felipe Massa was with Sauber. The team will devise a proper young driver programme for him, which is likely to follow the pattern they used with Massa. The only difference is that Massa’s role as Ferrari test driver meant that he actually did quite a bit of testing. Nowadays that is not possible due to the harsh test restrictions.
A Sauber seat in 2011 for Bianchi is a possibility given that his team and Ferrari will again have a close relationship due to an engine contract.
Bianchi spoke yesterday to L’Equipe about his feelings on driving an F1 car for the first time, “It’s strange,” he said.” Everyone is looking at you, the engine is running. I didn’t want to put myself under pressure, but it was certainly there. I had doubts, the fear of not getting the job done. It was astonishing when I accelerated hard, the power is considerable. And I won’t talk about the braking! I thought my head was going to go through the steering wheel it was so violent. I feel exhausted, it’s a huge physical effort and a lot of nervous tension. ”
Bianchi also spoke about his recent visit to Maranello, where “Everyone lives to work for Ferrari. And now I’m a small part of that. I’d forgotten that this is my first F1 test and I was driving for the best team in the world. I’m going to stay close to the team, continue to learn and progress, work on the simulator.”
As for his contract he said, “It’s incredible, like everything I am living at the moment. But it doesn’t mean that my place is assured in F1.”
No, but it seems we could have another Lewis Hamilton on our hands, exceptional skill shown in karting, a commanding transition to single seaters, his route to the top skillfully planned. He’s had less fanfare than Hamilton, but he certainly looks like the real deal.
JEREZ DAY 2 TESTING TIMES
1. Paffett McLaren 1m18.718s 80 Laps
2. Hulkenberg Williams 1m19.184s 94
3. Ricciardo Red Bull 1m19.243s 93
4. Di Resta Force India 1m19.411s 58
5. Gutierrez Sauber 1m20.190s 68
6. Conway Brawn 1m20.222s 83
7. Ericsson Brawn 1m20.440s 37
8. Hildebrand Force India 1m20.517s 50
9. Bianchi Ferrari 1m20.585s 113
10. Di Grassi Renault 1m20.898s 55
11. Tung Renault 1m21.492s 67
12. Bortolotti Toro Rosso 1m21.761s 69