7 July 2011
Bianchi looks to bounce back at Silverstone
Everyone expected Jules Bianchi to be a major contender for the 2011 GP2 title, but currently he's languishing in 15th place and has finished in the points just twice in four race weekends.
If there's a big surprise in this year's competitive GP2 championship, it's the poor showing of Lotus ART's Jules Bianchi, the Ferrari test and reserve driver who arrived on the scene with high expectations.
He finished in third place in the championship in 2010 and then pressed Romain Grosjean hard for the GP2 Asia title at the start of 2011, taking his first GP2-level win with victory in the season opener Abu Dhabi feature race.
Unfortunately for the 21-year-old Frenchman, his GP2 Asia campaign was frustrated when the series was curtailed because of the political unrest in Bahrain that saw the series come to a premature conclusion at the hastily arranged round at Imola: Bianchi's chances of still stealing the title ended when he retired early in the sprint race, and Grosjean duly went on to take the crown.
Still, it all seemed like good preparation for Bianchi going into the 2011 GP2 main series, and sure enough it started well with third place in the feature race at Istanbul Park, Turkey behind Grosjean and Sam Bird. However, contact with Grosjean at the start of the sprint race saw Bianchi spin, and by the end of the race he could only recover to seventh place - out of the points.
Bianchi would manage to finish in the points at the next feature race at Barcelona despite a 10-place penalty for ignoring yellow flags during qualifying, but that was the last time he has scored in the GP2 season. A starting-grid crash with Giedo van der Garde in the Spanish sprint race earned him another grid penalty for the next weekend at Monaco, where a gearbox problem saw him once again end the race in contact with van der Garde, and then a rash move on the opening lap in Valencia saw him make contact with Marcus Ericsson - for which he received a penalty for the following day's sprint race.
Bianchi now urgently needs to get his season moving again with some solid performances, although the question is whether to continue going all-out for wins - which has arguably been the cause of many of his turbulent weekends so far in 2011 - or whether just to regroup, build confidence and focus on picking up a solid number of points.
In one respect, going for the conservative points-centric approach appears a waste of time - he's already 26pts off Romain Grosjean, who leads by one point from van der Garde after four rounds, with five to go including this weekend's season mid-point at Silverstone. But some solid results and podium positions would at least restore his reputation, which is beginning to see some experts wonder if Bianchi simply has what it takes to compete at the top level of motorsport - which could have ramifications for his Ferrari role.
"My position in the first part of the championship has been compromised by several errors on my part," admitted Bianchi in a Ferrari press release this week. "Mishaps and the unexpected aside, things have always gone very well. This has pretty much compromised my expectations for the championship."
However, Bianchi insisted that it was far from a case of all being lost, and that he was determined to come through the disappointments of the first half of the season.
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