Recently-announced Force India reserve and test driver Jules Bianchi will combine his new duties with a race seat in another category, paymaster Ferrari has announced.
The Frenchman, who made his debut with Force India on the second morning of the Jerez group test, has been confirmed in Tech1 Racing's line-up for the World Series by Renault, marking his first full year in the championship after two frustrating GP2 campaigns with ART that failed to live up to the 'champion-in-waiting' tag that had been applied to him after his claimed the 2009 F3 Euroseries crown. Bianchi has one previous WSbR appearance to call on - having raced for SG Formula in Monaco in 2009 - but will find that the cars have moved on since then, acquiring similar technology to his current F1 mount.
"I am very happy to be able to drive for Tech1 Racing in this championship," Bianchi, a member of Ferrari's Driver Academy, told the Scuderia's official website, "This is a very important season for my career and, as a young driver, it is vital to have the opportunity to race in a competitive series such as this.
"I will do all I can to help the team reach its goals this season, and I want to thank Scuderia Ferrari and Sahara Force India for having given me permission to grasp this opportunity."
With F1 race opportunities likely to few and far between unless either Paul di Resta or Nico Hulkenberg get injured, Bianchi will focus his F1 attention on helping to develop the VJM05 in both pre-season testing and during his Friday morning practice outings at the majority of races this year.
His first acquaintance with the new car came on Wednesday morning in Spain, where he temporarily replaced di Resta and continued with the programme of data collection, aero development and parts evaluation started by the Briton on day one.
“This morning was our first chance to work with Jules, so we focused on getting him comfortable and familiar with all the systems on the car," technical director Andrew Green commented, "He acclimatised quickly and soon found his rhythm, which meant we could push ahead with the aero work we had planned for this morning. He did an excellent job, worked well with the engineers and has settled into the team."
Bianchi was back in action early on Thursday morning, although an off curtailed his involvement before he was due to hand over to Hulkenberg for the penultimate afternoon.