Jules Bianchi enhanced his reputation as a racer, and perhaps his claim to the second seat at Force India
for 2013, by coming out on top of a competitive field in Felipe Massa's annual Desafio Internacional das Estrelas karting event.
The double-header format saw the Frenchman, who combined a bid for the World Series by Renault
title with test and reserve duties for Force India
in 2012, fight off the challenge of Ferrari
team-mates Massa and Fernando Alonso, as well as a dozen erstwhile F1 drivers and assorted Brazilian stars to claim the first of two heats, before fourth place in Sunday's second leg confirmed him in first place overall.
"I had a very bad start and lost a few positions,” Bianchi said after starting from pole for race one, “I was fighting with the kart in the early laps, but then it started to go faster and I could start fighting for position. I was able to pass Nasr and Lucas, although there was some contact, but, after I took the lead, my kart was very good and I could open out an advantage.
“It's great to win here again, as I did last time - I love this event and want to be here forever!"
Former Virgin driver and current Pirelli tester Lucas di Grassi
and seasoned F1 driver Tonio Liuzzi chased Bianchi home in Saturday night's opener, while GP2 ace Felipe Nasr, former Renault
F1 driver Nelson Piquet Jr
and Brazilian Formula Truck racer Beto Monteiro completed the podium ahead of Bianchi on Sunday.
Nasr was classified second overall, with di Grassi – who is set to star for Audi in sportscars this season – third. Piquet, Liuzzi and Monteiro completed the top six, but the expected challenge from Bianchi's Ferrari
team-mates foundered with Massa only eighth and Alonso restricted to 24th by throttle problems that forced a DNF in race one and only allowed him to recover to 18th on the road second time around. Bruno Senna and Kamui Kobayashi, the other drivers to have raced in F1 in 2012, fared little better, taking 18th and 19th on the combined standings.
“This was probably the hardest Desafio ever for me,” Massa sighed, “If everything is not perfect, then even a tenth can make a big difference. My engine was not at its best yesterday and I paid for that today.
“However, the most important thing is that the event is getting bigger year after year. I was very pleased that Fernando was here with us and I'm sure he had fun!”
Alonso appeared to enjoy himself, admitting that he would return if his team-mate invited him, despite the disappointment of two lowly results. However, there are more pressing demands on their time, with Ferrari's annual Wroom
media event scheduled to kick off in Madonna di Campiglio this week.