Jérôme D'Ambrosio looks all-but certain to drive for Virgin Racing in 2011, following the suggestion that the Belgian is now '95 per cent' of the way to finalising a deal with the F1 2010 newcomer, and that confirmation could be forthcoming as soon as the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix finale in just under a fortnight's time.
Having begun the year as Renault's reserve driver, in September it was announced that D'Ambrosio would take over Friday testing duties at Virgin from struggling rookie Lucas Di Grassi for four of the last five races of the season in Singapore, Japan, Korea and Brazil – with the general belief being that the runs were the prelude to a race seat in 2011 [see separate story – click here
]. That now appears to be a reality.
The 24-year-old GP2 Series graduate was placed with the Richard Branson-spearheaded outfit by Gravity Sport Management, of which he is a member – and the organisation's CEO, recently-promoted Renault F1 managing director Eric Boullier, has corroborated that negotiations between driver and team are nearing a positive conclusion.
“We have 95 per cent of the package together,” the Frenchman told Belgian newspaper Het Nieuwsblad
. “For the remaining five per cent, it's just a matter of days. I would be pleased to have a signed contract in his pocket by the last race in Abu Dhabi.”
The last Belgian driver to race in F1 was Bertrand Gachot with Pacific back in 1995.