Euro: Bianchi clinches crown with home win
11 October 2009
Victory in the 18th round of the F3 Euroseries confirmed Jules Bianchi as the 2009 drivers' champion, giving ART Grand Prix a sixth straight title to go with the one it won in GP2 Series with the Frenchman's predecessor Nico Hulkenberg.
On home soil at the 3.8km Dijon-Prenois circuit, the 20-year old improved on the second place he took behind main title rival Christian Vietoris on Saturday to beat Mucke Motorsport's Sam Bird and Manor Motorsport's Roberto Merhi to the chequered flag.
The race started with an accident that eliminated six drivers on the opening lap. Prema Powerteam colleagues Tom Dillmann and Stefano Coletti were both involved, along with Signature team-mates Jean Karl Vernay and Mika Maki, Carlin Motorsport's Jake Rosenzweig and Mucke's Marco Wittmann, although only Maki emerged with injuries, the Finn reporting a bruised pelvis.
After an interruption of several minutes, the race was re-started, but Bianchi bided his time before overtaking Mucke's Alexander Sims for the lead on the 14th lap. While the champion-elect cemented his position at the head of the field, Sims faded to fifth behind ART's Esteban Gutierrez, but still remained the best-placed rookie in the field. However, because of ongoing investigations by the stewards, all positions behind the podium trio have yet to be officially confirmed.
“I am really happy that I have won the title," Bianchi commented, "Especially after yesterday's race, which didn't go so well, it is nice to claim the title with a race win. I really wanted to win a race here at home in France and that is partly why I took the risk [in racing Sims] - I might even have come off the track, but it worked out.
"I feel really honoured to be following in the footsteps of drivers like Lewis Hamilton, Romain Grosjean, Nico Hülkenberg, Paul di Resta and Jamie Green, all of whom won this series with Mercedes-Benz and are now competing either in Formula One or in DTM.”
Having already tested successfully with ART's GP2 Series squad in the build-up to the Euroseries finale, there is little doubt that Bianchi will move one step closer to F1 next season.
“The F3 Euroseries continues to prove its worth as a springboard for the higher echelons of motor racing, and Jules is now the latest in a long sequence of drivers to have emerged either directly or indirectly from the Mercedes school of talent and demonstrated their potential as F1 stars of the future," Mercedes VP of motorsport Norbert Haug confirmed, "This season, Jules has been in a class of his own and is certainly destined to go far.”
For Bird, a tough season ended as it had begun, with the Briton collecting some silverware.
“This season didn't go like I had imagined," he admitted, "Yesterday's race already was great fun, and being on the podium once more here is all the more beautiful.”