Andy Soucek has revealed that he is 'thrilled' to have been officially confirmed as test and reserve driver at F1 2010 newcomer Virgin Racing this year – replacing Alvaro Parente in the role, after the highly-rated young Portuguese star's pledged sponsors failed to follow through on their financial promise.
For a driver whose career had looked to be heading nowhere fast after a disjointed stint in the GP2 Series saw him jumping around between teams and mired in a legal dispute, the announcement marks a remarkable turnaround – one initiated by Soucek's title glory in the reborn FIA Formula Two Championship last year, as a result of which the Spaniard earned himself a test outing with Williams
F1 at Jerez in December.
Clearly impressed by the 24-year-old's form and potential – as he lapped quickest of the twelve drivers present on the opening day, and notably outpaced 2010 Williams
recruit and hitherto test driver Nico Hülkenberg in the same car – Virgin has moved in to snap up his services, thereby handing the madrileño
his big break at the highest level.
“I am thrilled to be joining Virgin Racing,” Soucek enthused. “This role offers me a great opportunity to prepare myself for the Formula 1 environment, which is naturally where my longer-term ambitions lie.
“I look forward to learning from Timo [Glock] and Lucas [Di Grassi], as well as soaking up as much information as possible from engineering meetings and time in the simulator. I would like to thank (team principal) John Booth and (technical director) Nick Wirth in particular for the faith they have shown in me at this stage in my career.”
In addition to continuing to race in 2010, Soucek will provide development information and remain on-standby at all grands prix should he be called upon to substitute either Glock or Di Grassi at the last-minute.
“We are delighted to welcome Andy Soucek to Virgin Racing,” added Booth. “He had a very good season in Formula Two last year and a positive F1 test with Williams. He is certainly someone we have been keeping a close eye on, as we believe he has a great deal of potential.
“We expect him to be a real asset to our development programme with the VR-01, and at the same time he provides the experience we need, should he be required to deputise for one of the race drivers at short notice.”