Multiple GP2 Series race-winner and Renault test driver Lucas Di Grassi looks to be in pole position to secure the second seat at F1 2010 newcomer Manor Grand Prix alongside Toyota refugee Timo Glock next year, team principal John Booth has hinted.
Manor – which is expected to be officially re-launched as Virgin F1, with title sponsorship from billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson's Virgin Group – is widely regarded as being the dark horse amongst the new teams set to swell the field next season, having quietly got on with preparations and progress whilst its rivals have been seeking the headlines.
Having already signed up the highly-rated Glock, slotting Di Grassi in alongside the German would give Manor a very solid driver line-up indeed for its maiden campaign at the highest level. What's more, the 25-year-old already knows the Sheffield-based outfit after having competed for them in the F3 Euroseries four years ago, finishing fourth in the title chase – behind only Lewis Hamilton and Adrian Sutil, and ahead of Sebastian Vettel – and triumphing in the blue riband
end-of-season Macau outing.
In three seasons in the GP2 feeder category, Di Grassi has never finished lower than third in the championship –with three different teams – and the man himself rates his chances of F1 graduation in 2010 as 'good', whilst Booth contends that the Brazilian's glory in Macau in 2005 was 'the highlight of my racing career – a superb win'.
“Hopefully, we should be able to announce the second driver in a couple of weeks,” the Englishman told the South China Morning Post
. “There is a possibility he may have won the Macau Grand Prix before...”
Di Grassi aside, the only other drivers Booth could feasibly be referring to are Mike Conway – who triumphed in the Far Eastern Portuguese enclave in 2006, and is due to test for Mercedes Grand Prix at Jerez early in December – and Super Aguri F1 refugee Takuma Sato, who is still seeking a way back onto the grid following the collapse of the Honda satellite operation early last year. On the Virgin rumours, meanwhile, he would give nowhere near as much away.
“I couldn't possibly comment on that,” Booth stressed. “In the next two weeks there will be an announcement on the commercial tie-up of the company.”