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.”