Reigning F3 Euroseries Champion Jules Bianchi has been handed a major boost on day two of the F1 young driver test at Jerez this week – by being signed up by Ferrari on a multi-year deal.
Bianchi impressed the Scuderia
with his performance on the opening day in southern Spain, and whilst it remains unclear what his exact role within the team will be – with Giancarlo Fisichella and Luca Badoer already on the books as respectively reserve and test driver for 2010 – the Maranello-based outfit revealed that he will form 'part of the group of Ferrari drivers'. He had earlier been linked with replacing Badoer during the summer, when the Italian's form in Felipe Massa's stead proved to be considerably shy of expectations.
It has been noted that the agreement is not at all dissimilar to that which the Prancing Horse made with Massa back in 2002 – and it has also been confirmed that the 20-year-old Frenchman will compete alongside British ace Sam Bird at ART Grand Prix in the feeder GP2 Series next season, as had been widely predicted.
Bianchi achieved title glory in the F3 Euroseries with ART, run by his manager Nicolas Todt – son of former Ferrari F1 team principal and new FIA President Jean Todt, and a man who also looks after Massa's career.
“This is the first step on a journey that could turn out very nicely,” acknowledged the Nice native, “but I'm equally aware that there is still a long way to go to get to Formula 1.”
Bianchi is the grandson of former sportscar star Mauro Bianchi and the nephew of Lucien Bianchi, who began 17 grands prix in the 1960s and triumphed in the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1968, before being killed during practice for the following year's edition of the famous round-the-clock classic.
The last Frenchman to race in F1 was Sébastien Bourdais earlier this year, and the last to win was Olivier Panis for Ligier Mugen-Honda in the 1996 Monaco Grand Prix.