Jules Bianchi has thanked Ferrari for helping him make the next step in his formula one career.
On the face of it, the Frenchman’s switch from Ferrari to the same reserve role at Sahara Force India is a backwards move.
But the new deal involves driving on the Fridays of grand prix weekends, while in the same role last year Nico Hulkenberg successfully found his way onto the race grid for 2012.
Some reports have suggested Ferrari wanted to clear the reserve role so that it is free for Robert Kubica to step in this year with a view to replacing Felipe Massa in 2012.
While Kubica’s Ferrari link could be true, the famous Italian team is undoubtedly still pushing on 22-year-old Bianchi’s career.
Indeed, he has been training in the Canary islands in the past days with Ferrari’s Massa and Fernando Alonso.
And “Jules will still be part of the Ferrari driver academy” in 2012, the team confirmed.
Even Bianchi reinforced the fact the Ferrari connection is still very much alive.
“I’m very happy. I want to say thank you to Ferrari who have been working hard for me,” he told the French-language RMC Sport. “It was very important to find a team and the aim now is to find the way to keep going,” added Bianchi.
Jules Bianchi is to be Sahara Force India’s reserve driver this year, after weeks of speculation about his chances of landing the job.
The Frenchman will drive the new car in testing and will do at least nine Friday morning practice sessions.
The last two drivers to have the job, Paul Di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg, both graduated to race seats with the team.
Binachi said: “I’m obviously excited to join Sahara Force India and the chance to get track time during race weekends is an important step for me. Being regularly in a current car is the best way to learn quickly and I hope it will put me in a strong position to one day move into a race seat.
“The next few months will be really exciting as I get to know the team, see how they work, and prepare for my time in the car. I would like to thank everyone for believing in me and especially Sahara Force India for giving me this great opportunity.”
Vijay Mallya said: “I am delighted to welcome Jules into the Sahara Force India family. We always keep an eye on young, talented drivers and his performance in GP2 certainly impressed us all. By giving Jules the opportunity to be part of our 2012 campaign, we continue to demonstrate our commitment to young drivers. We are proud of our track record in this regard and I have no doubt that Jules will quickly settle into the team and make a valuable contribution to our efforts on track this season.”
Ferrari Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa pilots have begun yesterday at the premises of Club La Santa in Lanzarote municipality of Tinajo, a concentration of physical work to prepare for the next season in the formula one World Championship. Accompanied by the French driver Jules Bianchi and Italian Davide Rigon, the Spanish and the Brazilian will participate in a programme to adjust the final details of his physical preparation.
Issuance of Ferrari, which is composed of 15 people, complete with physical trainers, physiotherapists, responsible for communication and management, will be accommodated in the Santa for a week and has asked to be treated like any other client. The turístico-deportivo complex chosen by Ferrari in the North of Lanzarote has facilities for the training of 30 different sports and is frequently used by elite athletes, clubs and national teams.