I had the pleasure to interview Jules Bianchi. For those of you that do not know, Jules is the current test driver for the Force India F1 team. Before you read the interview, here is a bit about his life and career so far.
Jules was born in France on the 3rd of August 1989. He was born into a family that loved racing, especially his grandfather Mauro Bianchi who won three titles in the GT series. He started like any other boy in karting, and took an instant liking to the sport finishing second in the 2004 French and European championship.
However, he left karting in 2007 to take a higher ride in the racing world and went to the French Formula Renault 2.0 racing cup where he raced for SG Formula. He finished a champion, and later that year he signed for the Formula 3 Euro series. His manager became Nicolas Todt (son of Jean Todt ex Ferrari front man and now head of the FIA), who also manages Felipe Massa.
In 2008, Bianchi’s career really started to take off, winning the Masters of Formula 3 at Zorder. He also finished third in the Formula 3 2008 Euro series season.
Bianchi continued his racing in F3 in 2009, being paired with current Williams test driver Valtteri Bottas, together with Esteban Gutierrez and Adrien Tambay. With eight wins under his belt, he sealed the Formula 3 championship with a round to spare.
Bianchi drove for ART in the upcoming GP2 Asia season and 2010 GP2 series season. He completed three of the four rounds in the Asia championship. In the main series, he had a number of points and two pole positions under his belt, but in the feature race at Hungary, he was injured in a nasty accident leaving him with a fractured second lumber vertebra. He was fourth in the drivers’ championship at the time. Although he was well enough to drive in the next race, he took no further wins that year, but still came a credible third, in the championship.
In 2011 he continued his GP2 career, being partnered with the GP3 champion Esteban Gutierrez. He starred in the first two rounds of the Asia championship, holding off Grosjean in the feature race and came fourth in the sprint race. However, he was penalised, and finished runner up to Grosjean that year. Bianchi had a bad start to the GP2 main season only scoring points in two of the first eight races, but after a win at Silverstone, his form improved and he finished third in the Championship with 53 points.
Bianchi was getting himself noticed and in 2009 he tested for Ferrari at the Jerez circuit. His performance on day one led him to being signed by Ferrari as a young driver. In 2011, he tested for the Ferrari driver academy with Sergio Perez.
In 2012, he became a reserve driver for Force India and he will take part in nine practice sessions. He was signed up for the job by the team principal, Vijay Mallya, who wanted young talented drivers. Alongside this, he also currently races in the Formula Renault 3.5 series, where he currently has 85 points and is in third place. He has won one race so far. The season is still ongoing.
He was a very personable and likeable person to interview and I wish him all the best for his future F1 career.
My questions posed to Jules and his responses:
1. I know that your Grandfather was a successful GT racer. Was it him that inspired you to become a racing car driver?
Yes. My grandfather was a good racer and I was lucky growing up as my father owned a Go-Kart track. So I was always surrounded by racers.
2. Who did you admire in racing when you were younger?
As I grew up I admired Michael Schumacher.
3. How did you make the move from Karting to French Formula Renault 2.0?
I had good results in Karting and a good manager who negotiated me a test with Formula Renault where I did well.
4. How tough was it to win the Masters of Formula Three in 2008? Did you consider any of the other drivers racing in the Masters of Formula Three to be faster than you? Where are some of your rivals now?
The Masters was a tough series with many good drivers. I raced with Nico Hulkenberg with whom I am now teammates.
5. When stepping up from Formula Three into GP2, how different were the two cars? What made you successful in GP2?
It was a fairly big step. I had to adapt my driving style and I worked very hard to do well in the series. It is all about adapting driver style to the ability of the car.
6. When you tested for Ferrari in 2009, how did the car feel compared to a GP2 car?
The F1 car felt very different in terms of aerodynamics, braking and power. The biggest difference is with the brakes and it takes many days of driving and confidence to get the late braking point correct.
7. Your test results on day one led you to being signed by Ferrari as a young driver. What emotions were going through your mind when you signed the contract?
It felt very good and exciting but it was only a first step in F1 with lots of work ahead. I have to keep pushing all the time.
8. How were you spotted by Force India to become their test driver for this season?
They spotted my good performances and were interested in me. I like being at Force India as they are like a small family and I want to grow in and with the team.
9. When testing in F1, are you aware of all the upgrades for that session?
Yes I am. I have to help develop them.
10. Why did you move from GP2 to Formula Renault 3.5? Surely, you would want to race in fast and superior cars.
I consider they are both fast as each other. If you look at timings, you will see that they both produce similar lap times. I could not race in GP2 anyway as it would conflict with my F1 testing, and it is good to continue racing in any series.
11. Do you get along well with other F1 drivers?
I obviously get on with Nico Hulkenberg and Paul Di Resta. I also know a number of other drivers including Ferrari drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa.
It was a memorable day for the 40 children from Medolla, one of theareas most affected by the recent earthquakes, who were special guests of Ferrari’s summer camp.
The day closed with a special party at the Fiorano track with the Scuderia drivers, Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa and Jules Bianchi who signed autographs and had their photos taken with their young fans.
There is an interesting article in F1 Racing magazine July edition about how Jules spends a free practice as a Force India reserve driver on a Friday. It’s worth to read! I uploaded the French version, either.
F1 Racing UK
F1 Racing France