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Jules Bianchi gets a lifeline with 11th hour Marussia deal
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Posted By: James Allen  |  02 Mar 2013   |  9:46 am GMT  |  54 comments

Jules Bianchi was passed over by Sahara Force India in favour of Adrian Sutil, but has managed to grab a seat on the F1 grid with Marussia.

The Banbury based team had announced Luis Razia, but clearly difficulties with his funding have meant that he has not been able to take up his place behind the wheel in testing and Bianchi’s manager Nicolas Todt has swerved his client into the seat.

Bianchi will drive the car today and tomorrow in testing at Barcelona.

This year’s Marussia doesn’t look like a bad car, certainly it could be ahead of the Caterham, from what has been seen so far, so it’s a good opportunity for Bianchi to show what he can do.

An outstanding kart racer, his single seater career hasn’t followed the trajectory most experts envisaged; he has not won either the GP2 or World Series title. And the Ferrari Driver Academy needs him racing in F1 if he is to progress. It’s fair to say that if he was in the Red Bull driver programme he would probably have been consigned to the scrap heap by now, along with many others, but Todt’s status and Ferrari’s desire to give him a chance have prevailed.

Marussia team principal John Booth made it clear that dropping Razia, who had a contract to race in 2013, for Bianchi was done to ensure the survival of Marussia. So the inevitable question is what does Bianchi bring? Some money, possibly, but also perhaps a Ferrari engine supply in 2014 at an affordable rate?

It looks like the new 2014 turbo engines will be at least twice the price of the current V8s, although this is still being discussed. Ferrari has lost a customer in Toro Rosso, which is aligning with Red Bull around the Renault engine for next year. This makes sense and it will be interesting to see how “Red Bull” next year’s Toro Rosso is, now that the list of prescribed parts has been moved on to the Sporting Regulations, meaning that there is potential for it to be watered down, allowing more IP sharing between teams.

With a new engine it’s very important for Ferrari to have several customers for two reasons; first to recoup some of the enormous development costs and secondly to have more data from track running to help develop and improve the engine. Ferrari would be at a serious disadvantage if it only had one customer team. Marussia currently uses Cosworth, but it is thought that they will not be racing in F1 next year.

“We have found ourselves in a situation where we have had to terminate our contract with Luiz Razia,” said Booth of the switch to Bianchi. “Having made clear the basis on which we must operate in 2013, and given the steps we had taken to put that new structure in place, we had no alternative but to remain true to the principles which we had identified as being key to securing our long-term future.

“We can now focus on the remainder of the testing programme and preparing for what looks to be a promising season for our Team. Jules can now look forward to a very swift initiation into the Team over the course of the next two days here in Barcelona, when he is expected to run for one and a half days to afford both our drivers some dry running with the latest aero specification.”

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54 Comments
  1. Chromatic says:

    Great news. It’s a one year stepping stone, hopefully.
    Soon give the other JB a run for his money!

  2. Jenny says:

    Nothing, or at least not much happens in F1 by accident. And certainly not within the space of a few hours.

    Bianchi clearly opted for Marussia rather than Force India some time ago and this meant Sutil was the only option for the seat. Hulkenberg knew what he was doing when he left the team at the end of last season.

    I very much doubt Force India will be much of a force this year!

    1. EzPez says:

      What? this in pure nonsense! where Jules and Luiz going to squeeze into the same car? these two seats have been decided in about the last week, for sure Jules will have been in talks with Marussia about a seat if Sutil returned but that would have stopped once the seat was occupied. Then once there was a sniff that Razia couldnt bring the cash, he would have let them know he was ready, but they will have also had this in mind. All of this was decided but hour’s ago.

  3. Diabolo says:

    i disagree with you when you say that Jules Bianchi should have been out of the RedBull program for young driver if he were in it. Because as i know neither Ricciardo or Vergnes won GP2 or WSR, they finished 2nd as Bianchi did in WSR. And the 3 of us have won F3 championship. So according to me they are in the same kind of career development. The thing is the most talented is…Bianchi.

    1. JC says:

      Ricciardo/Vergne didn’t go to GP2 as Red Bull prefer that they don’t, probably due to the Grosjeans and the Maldonados from there. However it’s outright blind to say that Bianchi is more talented despite him having not raced in a car and for Ricciardo and Vergne having not raced a half-competitive car.

      The only real time Bianchi has showed any real domination that everyone talks about is in Formula 3 Euro Series.

      And despite taking into account the equipment they had at the Young Driver Tests and Friday Practice sessions, I’d say Ricciardo and Vergne have more shown promise than Bianchi has.

      All of this means nothing though. Drivers whom have lit up the lower categories (e.g Christian Klien) before have flopped when they came to Formula One. And ones that stay quiet (e.g Mark Webber) can go on to become race winners with the potential of a champion.

      1. Random 79 says:

        +1

      2. Grabyrdy says:

        Always thought Klein had a rough deal myself, and he was rather quicker than we ever really saw.

  4. Blade Runner says:

    Is any drivers contract worth the paper it is written on now?

    1. RodgerT says:

      Yes, because Razia’s contract said that if he brought X amount of sponsors money to the team he would get the drive. The sponsors didn’t come through so the contract was void.

    2. Random 79 says:

      It is so long as the papers green ;)

      At the end of the day Razia didn’t honour the contract – whether it was his, his managers or his sponsors who was at fault doesn’t matter; they were in the wrong, not Marussia.

      Marussia did what they had to – simple as that.

      1. chris says:

        No contracts are water tight inside or outside of F1, its just a matter of how much it costs you if you break it thats all.

      2. Random 79 says:

        True

  5. Anne says:

    Today Bianchi is spotting a Ferrari logo sticker on his helmet

    8)

    1. Charith says:

      When I saw the Ferrari decals on his helmet, it was a sure sign (for me at least!) that it will be a Marussia-Ferrari in 2014.

      1. Anne says:

        And there is more. Ferrari issued a statement in their website to congratulate Bianchi for getting a seat in Marussia. I guess that makes the Marussia and Ferrari engine deal official

        ;)

  6. Andrew M says:

    I’d rather have Bianchi on the grid over Razia, and I hope that he can do enough to move forward from where he is. I think he’ll need to comfortably outperform Chilton, who doesn’t seem particularly highly rated, to get a look-in at a midfield drive.

  7. sam w says:

    If it means Ferrari engines next year, what does it mean for their technical partnership with McLaren?

    1. Random 79 says:

      Different area. If McLaren were supplying them with engines it might be tricky, but to my knowledge a technical partnership is just that – technical support.

      If this deal with Ferrari comes to fruition then hopefully they’ll have the best of both worlds and end up solidly in the midfield in 2014.

  8. AlexD says:

    These teams on the back are a joke. Maybe they will replace again before the race is somebody else comes with more money?

  9. Elie says:

    That’s fantastic news for Jules. I just checked his times and his first timed lap in te Marussia was just 3/10 off Max Chiltons who has spent 6 days testing. Force India are dead set crazy !

  10. Paul says:

    James, do you know what the rationale is for Jules only getting a day and a half of testing out of the final two days? It strikes me as a bit unfair given that Max has had more testing that anyone else on the grid.

    1. James Allen says:

      So that Max gets a feel for the definitive Melbourne aero package before he flies out there.

      Makes sense to me; he’s the one who will know what kind of development step it is

      1. Paul says:

        I suppose. It just seems to me that everything at Marussia is focused on Max. Which isn’t surprising given his dad is a major shareholder in the team. I just hope Jules gets a fair chance this year in the car, because on paper, he ought to destroy Chilton based on their careers to date.

        I don’t fully agree with what you say about Bianchi’s last few years being disappointing. Who else who has just come into F1 can say that they’ve finished in the top 3 in 3 major championships in the last four years? There’s been no one like Hamilton or Hulkenberg who have dominated in junior forumlae in the last few years. OK Bianchi hasn’t won a title in GP2 and World Series, and he has had a few silly mistakes under pressure. But his race pace has been very strong, and he’s had some inspired overtakes over the years.

      2. Random 79 says:

        However well he’s done in the past it doesn’t matter – all that matters now is how he performs this year.

        But I do tend to agree with you about him beating Chilton this year.

  11. Chris says:

    James, question that is really bugging me, in your opinion will force India have merc power plants next year? Can you for see anyone else entering the market?

    1. James Allen says:

      If I were SFI I would stick with Merc. They are very confident about this new engine.

      There is a rumour among F1 engineers I speak to that Sauber is thinking of switching to Mercedes. I’ve not checked it out yet with Monisha and Merc management. Politically that would be interesting as Sauber has always been closely aligned with Ferrari.

      1. David Ryan says:

        Sauber does have history with Mercedes, though – they ran their sportscar programme in the late 80s and early 90s, and when they entered F1 it was with Mercedes for the early years. In recent years they’ve definitely been closely linked with Ferrari even during the BMW days, but I’d suspect there are some links carried over from those days.

  12. Andrew Carter says:

    It’ll be interesting to see how he goes in what is almost a no-pressure seat. Definitely a better driver than Razia so this should prove interesting.

    1. Random 79 says:

      Not sure there are any no-pressure seats in F1. Definitely some high pressure ones though ;)

      1. Andrew Carter says:

        Well lts face it, after a day and a half of testing in the car we can’t really expect anything from him for at least the first third of the season, and even after that points would only be a dream.

      2. Random 79 says:

        When I mentioned high pressure seats I was referring to others, not Bianchi. I probably didn’t make that clear.

        Agreed it would be unfair to expect too much of him – at least initially.

        Considering that Marussia managed to pick up a couple of 12th places last year then with the step they seem to have made this year (and with a little luck) points may be possible.

  13. Rich B says:

    he deserves a crack at F1, i’m sure he’s quicker than razia so marussia should be very happy

  14. Triangle says:

    Everyone always seems to be going on about how Bianchi is going to be the next big thing. I guess now we’ll get to find out, but if it doesn’t work out I suppose he can always blame the car

  15. David Ryan says:

    Good example of live by the sword, die by the sword I suppose. I feel sorry for Razia – it sounds like this was genuinely outside of his control – but given Timo Glock was given the heave-ho on accounts of budget I can’t blame Marussia for employing the same approach in this case. It’s a business at the end of the day.

    Anyway, it’ll be interesting to see what Bianchi does with this opportunity – not the ideal build-up, but adversity is sometimes the best test of character and ability. Also makes the 2014 engine supply topic very interesting – I can’t imagine it won’t influence discussions with Ferrari somehow having a Ferrari Development Academy driver in the car…

    1. Denis68 says:

      How long can a driver remain in the Ferrari Driver Academy? How long does it take for Bianchi to graduate? This guy will still be part of the Ferrari Driver Academy when he turn 30 years of age.

      Look a Sergio Perez he was only in the FDA for a season and graduated to McLaren without the need of Ferrari buying him a seat.

      If Bianchi has graduated to Formula one he should be out of the Academy, Ferrari could even give Bianchi’s place to a young Italian driver seeing that there is not one in F1, GP2 or WSR 3.5 this year.

  16. Stuart burton says:

    James, you mention the sharing of intellectual property having changed to the sporting regulations for next year. As I understand it the teams currently can’t share any non-stabdard parts- is this a step back towards allowing customer cars like in the torro Rosso vettel win season (2009?)

    1. James Allen says:

      Not at this stage, but it’s something that there is a little anxiety about

      1. Brace says:

        James, having one firm (Red Bull) own two teams is already a huge conflict of interests, so do you think that allowing Toro Rosso to use Renault engines will be open invitation to Red Bull for further abuse of exchanging data and basically allowing them to run a test team 24/7, since we’ve seen already last year that Toro Rosso drivers are moving out of Vettel’s way as if they are being lapped.
        Add to that the fact that Vettel’s #1 fan Helmut Marko is the one who call’s the shots on the choice of drivers in Toro Rosso, I can’t see how FIA can allow this to keep going. Toro Rosso, in it’s current subservient position to Red Bull belongs to GP2, not F1.

        If they are allowed to use Renault engines next year, that will be an extreme unfair advantage compared to other top teams. Ferrari and McLaren might as well run 4 cars as Luca has been asking for. (note: I know he was talking about 3 cars :))

  17. saffa says:

    Can blame the car to an extent but i.m gonna stick my head out and say the car should be quite good given the fact that Marussia has Symmonds on board. Throws alot of speculation up in da air about teams and engine partners for 2014

  18. Duffy says:

    “It looks like the new 2014 turbo engines will be at least twice the price of the current V8s, although this is still being discussed.”
    So much for cutting costs!…just sayin’

    1. The Catman says:

      Agreed, and from Renault’s comments on engine costs for 2014 the ERS and support parts of the package are the major reason for the cost increase.

      TC

  19. Random 79 says:

    It seems to me that Razia’s F1 career is over before it even began – after this mess up I can’t see anyone else signing him in the future.

  20. dean cassady says:

    I expect Bianchi to blow Chilton out of the water; furthermore, that JB will be driving for a team like Sauber, or better, next year, maybe even Ferrari.
    We’ll see shortly whether or not he can differentiate himself from the pay drivers.
    Too bad he didn’t get the Force India seat; I think he’d have proven better than DiResta by the end of the 2013 season, now he’ll only have pay drivers in struggling cars to campare to.

  21. dean cassady says:

    Of course a Ferrari engine deal for Marusia was part of the deal!
    What else do you think the ‘pay’ was for Bianchi’s installation at Marussia?

    1. Martin says:

      It doesn’t necessarily follow that an engine at a discount price is involved. Ferrari is probably less concerned than Renault about the performance of its secondary teams, so the technical and financial benefits would help by having another team with little downside. However, the key could be the development of Bianchi. Experience in F1 is better than anywhere else. Ferrari lost Perez, and may not have long to make up its mind about Hulkenberg, so this is a step in keeping the pipeline going. I haven’t seen anything that says Ferrari is in effect paying Marussia. Bianchi’s association with Ferrari probably brings sponsors. So if Bianchi brings more money and performance than Razia, then that in itself is a good thing for Marussia.

      If you look at the engine rumours on this site, Ferrari could be obliged to take up Marussia and Scorpion (old HRT) next year anyway.
      Mercedes – AMG Merc, McLaren, Force India, Sauber
      Renault – Red Bull, Lotus, Toro Rosso, Williams, Caterham

      That doesn’t leave Ferrari with much and there’s the FIA’s expectation that teams supply a minimum number of teams. It could be that both Sauber and Force India use Ferrari engines next year. The Toro Rosso switch seems likely given the level of talk about it.

      This could quite simply be about money in 2013. Hopefully Marussia is a viable team, but are we even sure there will be more than 10 teams in F1 next year?

      1. Louis says:

        They didn’t lost Perez, they let him go. Do not forget that on a private Ferrari test at Fiorano (2011), Jules went half a second faster than Checo despite driving a F1 car like twice a year. Since than Ferrari has a lot of plans for Jules, that’s why they really wanted to get him a seat for this year, i guess if hé does well, he could be all in Red in 2014.

      2. Denis68 says:

        Perez slower than Bianchi?

        Remember one thing Ferrari had to buy Bianchi a Formula One Seat, They did not have to buy Perez one.

        Letting Perez go to McLaren while persevering with a cronically underperforming Massa could really come back to haunt Ferrari.

  22. Methusalem says:

    You can call me Julian White…

  23. Scuderia McLaren says:

    I bet F.Massa will be watching J.Bianchi closely throughout the season.

    1. Random 79 says:

      Yep – every time he laps Bianchi :)

  24. Louis says:

    I’m affraid Chilton is going to be a long way behind Jules. In karting, F3 or Gp2 Bianchi has always beaten Chilton and by quiet a margin.. And to prove my fact, in only his second day in the car, he’s already 1sec faster…

  25. CarlH says:

    Day: Friday
    Channel: SkyF1
    Event: Third pre-season test live from Barcelona

    David Croft: We’ve got a tweet in from a fan for Marussia’s Graeme Lowdon. He suggests Jules Bianchi may be lined up to take Luiz Razia’s under-threat seat for 2013. This could possibly be as part of a deal for Marussia to get Ferrari engines for 2014.

    Graeme Lowdon (dismissively / condescendingly): Haha, I’m not sure about that. Things don’t really work that way. I’m sure if the fans sit typing at their laptops until the start of the season we’ll get plenty more names thrown up.

    Less than 24 hours later the deal is done. Hilarious.

  26. Random 79 says:

    Chalk one up for the good guys :)

    1. Random 79 says:

      @CarlH

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