"So no, there isn't an element in terms of Jules' abilities - he's obviously a first-class racing driver," continued Fernley. "What's happened with the Nico departure is that it's just taken us out of our comfort zone in terms of where we were wanting to plan going forward."
The informed guess is that Bianchi's 2013 destination depends on what deal Force India
between them can put together over the Frenchman's future. Ferrari
would like Bianchi to have actual Grand Prix racing experience with another team before fielding him themselves, while Force India
would like something in return - like an engine deal, perhaps?
"It's part of the decision making process," admitted Fernley when asked about the engine component, before adding: "It would be too simplistic just to say it is linked to an engine, because it's not the case at all.
"We've always had these mythical stories about Paul coming linked to Mercedes and it's total nonsense," Fernley added. "There's no link to Paul and Mercedes whatsoever. There's a strong link between Jules and Ferrari
- of course - but it's not contingent."
And Fernley was also adamant that it wasn't about a driver bringing cash to the team, although Force India's finances are thought to be in less than ideal health at present.
"It doesn't necessarily follow that that is a financial requirement," insisted Fernley. "In fact it's highly unlikely that it will be."
Fernley did say that the team was fully aware of the capabilities of all the drivers still in the frame to receive a nod for the remaining race and test slots, and that no more selection tests or shoot-outs would be needed. Once the decision was made things would move fast, he said.
"They'll go straight into the programme," he stated. "We can bring the second and third driver in for Barcelona and they will be competitive straight away."