Q: Jules, 11th-fastest race lap en route to a 15th-place finish on your debut. It’s a performance that’s got you on a number of people’s radars already. What did you think of it?
Jules Bianchi: Well, honestly it has been a really nice weekend for me in Australia even if it was quite a late call for me because I didn’t do all the pre-season testing. Anyway, I was really happy. I just tried to enjoy and see what we were able to do in the race. Obviously the race went pretty well. We had a good start, everything was good, and we did a good result. We know what we have to improve and we will try to do that for the next few races.
Q: You were with Force India of course in February in testing and you only had on test with Marussia before Australia. What do you think is possible with this car this season?
JB: I think I was really surprised when I drove it for the first time. My expectation was a lot lower than that. I was really happy when I drove it. I think we can do good results. We know what we have to improve again, so we’re just trying to do that, trying to improve the car and trying to improve myself as well, because I’m new in the team, new in Formula One. I want to show people what I am able to do, so I will try to do my best for all the other races.
Q: (David Croft – Sky Sports) We often get views from some of our viewers that there shouldn’t be blue flags in Formula One and that everyone has a right to be racing out on the circuit and shouldn’t have to move over and it’s an art to overtake a back-marker or a front runner. I just want to know from a few of you, do you think there should be blue flags in Formula One? Kimi and the rest of the rookies…
JB: Well, obviously I think it’s normal that we have to move the way out because they are fighting for the victory and we are lapped, so when we are lapped I think it’s right to give the place to the leader. So, yeah, I think it’s normal rules to have blue flags.
Q: (Dan Knutson – Auto Action) Jules, you had a very good race (in Australia) but you had so little testing; do you see yourself making some really big steps when you get some more track time?
JB: Obviously it would have been better for me to have more testing but my race was good and there’s much more to come from my side, specially to set the car up well, because I don’t know the car. I only did one and a half days before the race, so I think it’s something I need to get used to and for sure I will have more performance after that. But I think I’m already at a good level, for sure. I trained a lot last year with Force India and the year before with Ferrari, so now I feel ready to race in Formula One, that’s why I am here. I still need to improve but I’m already happy with that.
Q: And how much is the simulator helping you in this situation?
JB: Well, obviously I did a lot of simulator preparation before the race in Australia and it was really helpful, especially because I didn’t know the track and the same for this track, so it’s something really useful.
Q: (Velimir Veljko Jukic – Auto Fokus) We have a couple of rookies here and normally you have reached the first level to the biggest category, but probably there are some big secret wishes which you don’t talk about. Would you maybe reveal your secret wish to this audience?
JB: I don’t think there are many secrets in Formula One. You just need to work out a lot and be ready for that. I don’t see any secrets.
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.
Paris: Force India reserve driver Jules Bianchi has been behind the steering wheel for the in-season testing at Mugello that started on Tuesday. In an exclusive interview, the 22-year-old French driver, who is part of the Ferrari Driver Academy, talks to IBNLive.com about the Mugello test and his experience with the team.
How was your experience on Day 1 of the testing session at Mugello?
It has been quite difficult for me because of the weather. We couldn’t put in many laps. We did 19 in total on the first day. However, at the end, we did everything we wanted to do, including testing the aero package. It was quite interesting and useful for the team.
How important is the in-season test at Mugello, the first since 2008?
I think the Mugello test is really important because this year the field is really close. So if you gain one or two tenths of a second, you can gain a lot during the race. It would be important for the championship as well. It is a good thing to have more testing compared to previous years.
Have you tested new systems on the car, considering the European leg of the season would be starting soon?
Yes, we tested some new aero parts on the first day.
How has the car’s performance been so far?
The car is performing really well. It is quick in the straight line and has got good grip in high-speed corners. I feel really confident with the car. I will need more laps in dry conditions, which I couldn’t get in Shanghai and Mugello.
Tyre conservation has played a big role in determining the car’s performance. How has the team fared on this front?
I think we have been doing well. We have done good on race days. But we need a bit of speed in qualifying. I think we will find something in Mugello and be better again in the races.
How has your experience been as a reserve driver with Force India?
It has been a good learning experience. I have to learn a lot in Formula One because I am quite young. It’s always good for me to be with the team, to see how they work. It has been a positive season for me.
Have you set any goal for making your Formula One race debut?
For the moment, I am just concentrating on this season. My focus is on doing a good job with the team. I will think about that later on.
As a French driver, what is your reaction to the announcement of the return of French GP to the calendar from next year?
It will be something special for us to come back to France. I hope I will get a chance to race in Formula One next season, so it will be in the French GP as well. It is a good moment for French motorsport. We already have three French drivers in Formula One this year. I think it is a really good moment for us.
Jules Bianchi is one of the most talented and promising young drivers. After winning the championship in F3 Euroseries with ART Grand Prix in 2009 and getting the third position in the 2010’s GP2 championship he signed a deal with Ferrari for becoming the reserve driver for the team in 2011, while he continued competing in the GP2 championship.
This season he took a step forward in his career by signing a contract with Sahara Force India. This role will give him the opportunity to drive the car during some Friday sessions before the Grand Prixs.
We had the pleasure to have a telephone interview with Jules while he was in Barcelona for the final test before the start of the season that took place from the 1st until the 4th of March. His answers to the questions we set to him are really interesting.
Jules, let me ask you how did the test go for the team yesterday (1st of March) and what is your plan for the rest of the day (2nd of March).
“Yesterday the team did a good job again and we showed that the car is really good. We are still pushing a lot to improve it and we are trying to see that our data is working. Anyway, yesterday was a good day and today hopefully will be a good day again.”
In the test in Jerez you had the opportunity to drive the new car. What is your feeling about the new car in terms of performance and drivability?
“When I drove the car in Jerez I felt it really comfortable to drive, very quick and well balanced which is really important and I was really happy with this. Even if I did this small mistake the day after, I think the test went pretty well for me and the team was happy with my job so this was really important. “
What position does the team target for this season?
“I think the target of the team is to be sixth for sure and if we can do even better it will be better, but anyway the target is the same I think.”
The team announced that you will drive in, at least, nine Friday sessions. What will be your tasks and your responsibilities?
“When I will be driving in the Friday mornings the target for me will be to do whatever the team asks me to do, not to do any mistakes and to show that I can do tests with them and improve the car, get good feedback and be quick on the track. So, this will be my target.”
Your grandfather and your uncle were racing drivers. Do you believe that this racing heritage has played a role for you becoming a successful racing driver?
“Well, my grandfather was racing a long time ago, but my family has been in motor racing since I was born and even before so, for sure it is very important for me to be in this world which is really small and actually all my essence of my life is about doing motor racing.”
From your career so far, which is the moment that you remember the most?
“I think that it is the Formula 3 championship that I won in 2009 which has been very important for me and then one of the best moments for me was the contract with Force India which is one of the most important moments in my career.”
Last year you had a quite successful season in GP2, this year you make a step forward as you will be doing some Friday mornings in Formula 1. So, what about next season and beyond?
“This year I will do a lot of things during the Friday morning for the whole season so I will try to do my best and help the team for the championship and I hope that I have an official seat for next year and this is the main target for me.”
You have been a member of the Ferrari young driver’s academy for some time. Do you dream your future in Formula 1 with Ferrari?
“Well, now I’m in Force India so I’m thinking only about Force India.”
This year we have three drivers from France in Formula 1 plus you as a reserve driver. Do you believe that this can push FIA to get the French Grand Prix back in Formula 1?
“Yes, for sure it would be good to do that. We have three French drivers in Formula 1 and it will be great to have the French Grand Prix back and I think the people in France are trying to get it back again. I think it will be very important for our sport to be in France. So I hope that we will do it again (the Grand Prix) and it will be very important to us.”
From the entire Formula 1 history which driver do you admire the most?
Can you explain why?
“Yes, just because what he has achieved is just amazing. For me he is simply the best driver.”
We would like to thank Sahara Force India and especially Will Hings for the exceptional cooperation and Jules Bianchi for the very interesting interview he gave to us.
Force India’s new reserve driver Jules Bianchi answered questions about 2012.
First of all, congratulations on becoming a member of the Sahara Force India family. How does it feel?
I feel excited because it’s a very great opportunity for me and I will do my best to try to help the team in every way that I can. It’s a good place to be because this team has shown in the past that they believe in giving young drivers a chance. It’s also a team that has made a lot of progress in the last three years to become quite competitive. So I’m really happy to be here and I want to thank everyone for the opportunity and trust they have shown in me.
You’ve done mileage in testing already, but will it feel different to be driving in official practice sessions during Grand Prix weekends?
It will be different, I’m sure, but until you’ve done it you don’t know how it will feel or if you will have more pressure, for example. That’s why it’s an important step for me because it’s a chance to learn in the proper racing environment, and that’s something you cannot get from a test session. What I can say is that I will be sensible in my approach and just try to do my job as well as I can for the team. Friday sessions are valuable track time so I know that there will be lots of jobs to be done and the team will want me to find the limit of the car quite quickly. That’s why I’m here and I’m ready for it.
Of course, it’s about more than just driving the car because you will be integrated with the team. That must be exciting for you…
Yes, I will be spending a lot of time with everyone in the team and especially the guys at Silverstone. It will be a different way to work compared to GP2 and I’m excited to be part of it. I cannot wait to come to the factory, meet the engineers and get started.
What are you hoping to learn in 2012 and what goals do you have in mind?
The goal is to work really hard with the team and to try to be ready for the next season. Ultimately I want to take the next step in my career, which is a race seat, so this brings me even closer to that and gives me a chance to learn quickly. I feel ready for Formula One so it’s down to me to show the team what I can do, continue making progress, and put myself in the best position to get a race seat in the future.