Having missed out on the opportunity to make his F1 debut with Force India, Jules Bianchi has been given a second chance to join the grid this season after Marussia confirmed that the Frenchman will partner Max Chilton for the 2013 campaign.
Bianchi joins the team as a replacement for Brazilian racer Luiz Razia, who had been named as Chilton's team-mate during the first test of the season at Jerez.
Doubts began to emerge about the Razia's role with the team when he failed to take to the track during the second test of the winter in Barcelona, with sponsor issues leading to questions about whether he would be able to take up his drive as planned.
With expected payments having not been forthcoming, Marussia confirmed that it had terminated Razia's contract shortly after the end of the second day of the final test at Catalunya, with Bianchi being named as his replacement.
The 23-year-old will now get his first chance to sample the MR02 during the final two days of the Barcelona test before making his race debut in Melbourne later this month.
“We are very pleased to welcome Jules Bianchi to the Marussia F1 Team,” team boss John Booth said. “Jules is a proven talent who is highly regarded within the Paddock. He has been on a clear trajectory towards Formula 1 and has achieved some impressive performances through the various feeder formulae, notably his 2012 season in Formula Renault 3.5 when he was also reserve driver for Force India. He is part of the Ferrari Driver Academy and his obvious pedigree put him on the radar for a number of teams over the winter as a driver ready to step up to Formula 1.
“We have found ourselves in a situation where we have had to terminate our contract with Luiz Razia. Having made clear the basis on which we must operate in 2013, and given the steps we had taken to put that new structure in place, we had no alternative but to remain true to the principles which we had identified as being key to securing our long-term future.
“We can now focus on the remainder of the testing programme and preparing for what looks to be a promising season for our team. Jules can now look forward to a very swift initiation into the Team over the course of the next two days here in Barcelona, when he is expected to run for one and a half days to afford both our drivers some dry running with the latest aero specification.”
Bianchi himself said he was delighted to have the opportunity to make his race debut and said he was ready to start work with his new team during Saturday's running.
“I am thrilled to have secured a race seat with the Marussia F1 Team,” he said. “Racing in Formula 1 this season has been my goal over the winter and after evaluating a number of options I am very excited to have this opportunity to demonstrate that I am ready for this next step in my racing career.
“I am also very grateful to the Ferrari Driver Academy that has always supported me and has given me the possibility to mature as a racing driver enabling me to be fully prepared for this new exciting challenge. The next two weeks of preparation for the season will be incredibly busy but I am ready to get started tomorrow with my first day in the MR02.”