Tag Archives: Jules Bianchi

Jules Bianchi to stay at Marussia for 2014 season

Jules Bianchi will continue to drive for the Marussia team in the 2014 season, the team confirmed today.

The Frenchman was tipped to be in contention for a Force India or Sauber drive, but has instead opted to stay put. He is only the second Marussia/Virgin driver not to be dropped in their first year since the team was formed in 2010.

He remains part of the Ferrari development programme, and seeing as Marussia will switch to Ferrari engines next year, Bianchi staying on board seemed to be a done deal.

Jules today praised the team, and stated he was hopeful for improvements into 2014:

"I couldn’t have wished for a more supportive environment in which to make my F1 
debut and from the very beginning I have always felt completely at home with the team.

We started the season very well and while the challenge has increased as the season 
has developed, we have learned important lessons together that will place us in a 
much stronger position next year when there are a lot of changes for the sport and 
the team to get used to."

 

2013 half-way driver rankings: 22nd – 14th

As I do every 6 months, I rank this year’s F1 drivers and their performances so far this season.

This first part will rank the drivers from 22nd place all the way up to 14th. Let’s start with a driver who has had more than a few moments of criticism:

22nd – Max Chilton

Previous ranking: N/A

Previous quote: N/A

Perhaps it’s a little unfair to view Chilton as only a pay driver – some decent wins in GP2 confirm that he’s a competent driver, but at this level he is simply outperformed week after week.

In all instances where both Marussia cars finish a race, Max is beaten by Jules Bianchi on every occasion. He is more than half a second off his teammate in qualifying, and rarely shows any promise in the races.

It is extremely difficult for Caterham and Marussia drivers to show talent in their own little tussle at the back of the field, but it’s still clear that there are many drivers waiting in the wings that are better than Chilton.

21st – Esteban Gutierrez

Previous ranking: N/A

Previous quote: N/A

Many fans were disappointed to see Kamui Kobayashi forced out of a Sauber drive, and weren’t any less pleased when they saw his replacement. So far, Esteban Gutierrez hasn’t shown a single commendable performance so far in his F1 career.

I don’t expect him to outperform Nico Hulkenberg on many occasions, but the only time he has done so – the Spanish Grand Prix – was when Hulkenberg was forced to pit six times. Aside from this, Esteban has failed to score a single point, and is almost a second slower in terms of qualifying lap times.

Considering how much Nico struggles in the 2013 Sauber, it is unlikely that we will see drastic improvement from Gutierrez any time soon. But that could call time on his F1 career rather quickly – Robin Frijns is threatening to break onto the F1 scene, and if he can amass some decent finance, Esteban will be out of a job before he knows it.

20th – Felipe Massa

Previous ranking: 8th

Previous quote: “In the last few races, Massa has been superb. 10 points-scoring finishes in a row is well deserved.”

Sometimes I feel that praising Massa is pointless – every time he performs well for a few weeks, he promptly falls off a cliff and crashes into anything solid for months to come. For Ferrari to hold onto him for 2014 would be a travesty for potential world champions across the F1 grid.

His two retirements this year have been not only his fault, but embarrassing to watch as well. After two similar shunts into the wall at Monaco, he somehow managed to spin away from the first corner at the Nurburgring, on only lap 4 of the race. Much like the other drivers at the back end of the rankings, he has failed to beat his teammate in a single race in 2013.

There is absolutely no reason for him to be retained at one of the top Formula 1 teams. There is a cavalcade of drivers – Hulkenberg, Riccardo, Perez, Sutil, Grosjean, Bottas, Bianchi, Frijns, Da Costa, Vandoorne – that would be able to perform a supporting role to Fernando Alonso better than what Felipe is currently doing.

It seems that both Massa and his dwindling number of supporters are still living in the past, convincing themselves that the 2008 season can be repeated. But the sport has moved on, and so should Ferrari.

19th – Giedo van der Garde

Previous ranking: N/A

Previous quote: N/A

Faced with the unpopular stigma of bringing sponsorship money to secure his F1 drive, Giedo van der Garde has performed decently enough in a car miles off the midfield pace.

Qualifying an excellent 15th on the grid for Monaco, and finishing there, did his reputation no problems whatsoever. Another 14th-placed finish in Hungary is Caterham’s joint best finishing position so far in 2013. Having said that, his teammate Charles Pic certainly has the overall edge on the Dutchman. Pic has out-qualified and out-raced Giedo more often this year, and therefore Van der Garde is looking less likely to hold his seat into 2014.

Another few performances like Monaco would more than likely secure his drive for next year. But that’s easier said than done – the Caterham is increasingly slow compared to teams like Williams and Toro Rosso, and breaking into Q2 looks less and less likely after every race weekend. Van der Garde certainly has a challenge on his hands.

18th – Pastor Maldonado

Previous ranking: 15th

Previous quote: “A brilliant win in Spain was marred by needless collisions and constant penalties [later in 2012]. After that, a 9-race streak without points fuelled rumours that Pastor wasn’t fast without aggression.”

Aside from a spin in Melbourne, Pastor’s crashing record in 2013 is surprisingly clear. But unfortunately there isn’t much else to say about his year, as he’s struggling to hold off rookie teammate Valtteri Bottas.

A single points-scoring finish isn’t much to report about either, since it came from the late retirement of Nico Rosberg in Hungary. Compared to Bottas, their performances are relatively close – Maldonado is beaten in terms of qualifying positions, but certainly has the edge in the races.

Considering the massive paychecks that PDVSA are throwing at Williams every year, Maldonado’s drives aren’t exactly setting the world on fire. But they could do a lot worse in terms of driver-picking, and now that he seems to have settled down a little, an interesting fight with Bottas is on the cards for the rest of 2013.

17th – Charles Pic

Previous ranking: 16th

Previous quote: “Pic is definitely a driver to look out for in the future.”

Considering that his move from Marussia to Caterham looks increasingly like a sideways step, Charles Pic hasn’t done too bad a job in 2013.

More often than not, he leads Giedo van der Garde in qualifying and races, and has a decent 14th-placed finish in Malaysia as well. There’s not too much to be said after that – Pic and Van der Garde can only drive so well with such a slow car. Still, Pic certainly deserves to be retained for 2014, if he can keep up his current form.

16th – Jules Bianchi

Previous ranking: N/A

Previous quote: N/A

After cutting short Luiz Razia’s 0-race F1 career out of sheer luck, Jules Bianchi has performed superbly well in 2013 with the sub-par machinery he is dealt with.

As expected, he has crushed Max Chilton in every qualifying session and race where possible. A 13th-placed finish in Malaysia is Marussia’s best finish of 2013, and is even able to out-drive Giedo van der Garde when the car lets him.

Such is his commendable performances that Ferrari are eyeing him up, not for a jump to the Scuderia just yet, but to have him mature in a midfield team before having him possibly partner Fernando Alonso. In fact, Bianchi’s drives this year are almost comparable to Alonso’s year with Minardi in 2001. All Jules needs is a brilliant performance in Suzuka, and his career’s all set to take off.

15th – Valtteri Bottas

Previous ranking: N/A

Previous quote: N/A

As much as I was pleased by his excellent qualifying in Canada, there haven’t been many other brilliant drives from Valtteri Bottas so far this year. But when you consider he’s only 10 races into his Formula 1 career, his out-driving of Pastor Maldonado is all the more impressive.

Taking 3rd on the Canadian Grand Prix grid, only behind Vettel and Hamilton, cannot be understated. Unfortunately, the Williams car gave him no pace that Sunday, and not a single point has been earned by the young Finn so far in 2013. Much of it is down to the car, as seen by Maldonado only scraping a single point out of good luck in Hungary.

The question is how much more Bottas can improve before hitting the limit of the Williams team. It remains to be seen how much the Fw35 can improve over the summer break, and this may make or break Valtteri’s 2013 campaign. Despite what many would like to believe, drivers can only do so much when they are held back by sub-par machinery.

But at the very least, Bottas has been a competent and superior replacement to Bruno Senna. That much is enough to earn him praise.

14th – Romain Grosjean

Previous ranking: 14th

Previous quote: “Three decent podiums, as well as nearly winning a race, shows that he is talented enough to mix it at the front. The issue is whether he has the confidence to do that any more.”

I’d have loved to be able to praise Grosjean’s excellent Hungarian Grand Prix win, laud him as a future world champion, and leave it at that. Unfortunately, this is Romain Grosjean, and a screw-up was almost mandatory. After botching a probable win, Romain has some serious explaining to do if he is to remain at Lotus for 2013.

There’s no doubt that Romain hasn’t shaken off the “crash kid” stigma just yet. A needless clash with Jenson Button in Hungary showed that after almost three years in F1, he still hasn’t learned the dimensions of his own car, never mind how to navigate it around someone else’s. With someone like Kimi Raikkonen as a teammate, Lotus need to sit back and judge whether having someone like Grosjean as a teammate is even necessary. While the Finn has 134 points to his name, Romain has only 49, as a result of his own incompetentness.

He has extremely good pace when he’s on form, we already know this. Both the Bahrain and German Grands Prix saw calculated, cool driving from the Frenchman, and combined with some searing pace from the Lotus E21, earned him two well-deserved podiums. But his atrocious spatial awareness does his reputation no good whatsoever – just look at his hilariously bad Monaco Grand Prix weekend to see what I’m on about.

Yes, he’s a fast driver, but that means absolutely nothing without the mental capacity to not bin the car every second race. As I said before, Lotus need to have a good long think about whether a driver like Grosjean is required for a team that’s aiming for consistent finishes and the constructor’s championship.

Bianchi ousts Razia at Marussia for 2013

In a surprise move, it has been announced that Luiz Razia has already been dropped by the Marussia team for the 2013 season, despite not having even turned a wheel in the new car.

It appears as if one of Razia’s sponsors failed to come through on a payment to the Marussia team, and after over a week of hushed rumours around the paddock, Luiz has been ousted before the season has even begun. The young Brazilian had completed 23 days on his contract before today.

He has been replaced by Jules Bianchi, who only yesterday had lost out to Adrian Sutil on the Force India second driver seat. Bianchi comes with Ferrari backing, meaning that Marussia are in a good position to receive Ferrari engines for the 2014 season, if Cosworth do not renew their contract.

Despite the shock move, Razia was adamant that he deserved his spot in the team, and valiantly vowed to fight his way back into F1:

"I'm in a kind of shock, because you expect to be in F1, you are there, announced, 
testing, and then you are out - and not because of a driver fault. I did everything 
right in what I could do, but it was really just a circumstantial thing that happened, 
and that was it.

But I still am here. My career is still shining and I can overcome this difficult 
situation. It is just something that has happened to me. Sometimes life does this 
to you.

My main goal is to be in F1, so all my effort is there. I am now without any grounds, 
but I will go with my family, and we will be sad for a while, but I will get back to 
the category."

 

Adrian Sutil beats Jules Bianchi to final Force India seat

With only 16 days left until the start of the F1 season, Force India have finally completed their driver line-up. Adrian Sutil will return to the cockpit after a 1-year hiatus, being chosen over young driver Jules Bianchi.

Sutil was convicted in January 2012 of an assault on Genii Capital CEO Eric Lux, and was given an 18-month suspended sentence. This led to his dismissal from the team for the following season.

Even with worries that he may not be allowed into China (where the assault took place), Sutil has been granted a spot in his old team. He drove for it when it was called Spyker (2007), then Force India from 2008 to 2011.

Jules Bianchi, who was also in contention for the final F1 seat of 2013, has been retained by the team as a reserve driver, and the team have hinted that they will consider him as a future driver in years to come.

Young driver test Day 3 – Three out of three for Vergne

Vergne topped the timesheets every day

Vergne topped the timesheets every day

Jean-Eric Vergne has topped the third and final young driver test in Abu Dhabi, similar to Daniel Ricciardo last year.

The Frenchman was only 4 tenths of a second slower than Sebastian Vettel’s pole position time here last week. He led Sam Bird and Jules Bianchi by well over 2 seconds.

Bird tested 2012-spec exhausts for Mercedes, which do not feature any off-throttle blowing of the diffuser like this year.

Oliver Turvey drove the McLaren all day, replacing Gary Paffett from yesterday. Max Chilton was 5th, ahead of Esteban Gutierrez and Mirko Bortolotti, who was testing for Williams.

Kevin Ceccon was 8th for Toro Rosso, ahead of Alexander Rossi for Lotus. Jan Charouz drove a Renault today, taking 10th, while Stefano Coletti was ahead of Nathanael Berthon. Virgin again split their running between Robert Wickens and Charles Pic, with both drivers finishing at the back.

Teams ran using a mixture of 2011 and 2012 Pirelli tyres on a variety of fuel loads.

Times from day 3:

 1.  Jean-Eric Vergne     Red Bull-Renault       1:38.917
 2.  Sam Bird             Mercedes GP            1:40.897
 3.  Jules Bianchi        Ferrari                1:41.347
 4.  Olivier Turvey       McLaren-Mercedes       1:41.513
 5.  Max Chilton          Force India-Mercedes   1:41.575
 6.  Esteban Gutierrez    Sauber-Ferrari         1:42.049
 7.  Mirko Bortolotti     Williams-Cosworth      1:43.277
 8.  Kevin Ceccon         Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1:43.686
 9.  Alexander Rossi      Lotus-Renault          1:44.283
10.  Jan Charouz          Renault                1:44.470
11.  Stefano Coletti      Toro Rosso-Ferrari     1:44.545
12.  Nathanael Berthon    HRT-Cosworth           1:45.839
13.  Robert Wickens       Virgin-Cosworth        1:45.934
14.  Charles Pic          Virgin-Cosworth        1:46.348

Young driver test Day 2 – Vergne still on top

Vergne finished day 2 on top again

Vergne finished day 2 on top again

Jean-Eric Vergne again headed the timesheets for the young driver test in Abu Dhabi.

A time of 1:40.188 in the morning was enough to secure the Frenchman top spot, despite sensor and KERS issues in the afternoon.

Ferrari test driver Jules Bianchi was again 2nd, but this time was only 0.091 seconds behind the Red Bull. Gary Paffett drove the McLaren for the entire day, and was 3rd, albeit 1.5 seconds slower than Vergne. He caused the only red flag of the day, when his McLaren spilled oil on the track.

Valterri Bottas was 4th for Williams, ahead of newest F1 debutant Johnny Cecotto Junior, driving for Force India. Sauber reserve driver Esteban Gutierrez was 6th.

Sam Bird was 7th for Mercedes, ahead of newcomer Kevin Korjus, driving for Renault. Luiz Razia was 9th for Lotus, with Kevin Ceccon 10th for Toro Rosso.

HRT split their running between Jan Charouz and Nathanael Berthon, who finished 11th and 13th respectively – Berthon only driving for the final half hour. Virgin shoe-in Charles Pic was 12th.

Times from day 2:

 1.  Jean-Eric Vergne     Red Bull-Renault      1:40.188
 2.  Jules Bianchi        Ferrari               1:40.279   0.091
 3.  Gary Paffett         McLaren-Mercedes      1:41.756   1.568
 4.  Valtteri Bottas      Williams-Cosworth     1:42.367   2.179
 5.  Johnny Cecotto Jr    Force India-Mercedes  1:42.873   2.685
 6.  Esteban Gutierrez    Sauber-Ferrari        1:43.637   3.449
 7.  Sam Bird             Mercedes GP           1:43.734   3.546
 8.  Kevin Korjus         Renault               1:43.776   3.588
 9.  Luiz Razia           Lotus-Renault         1:43.944   3.756
10.  Kevin Ceccon         Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:44.808   4.620
11.  Jan Charouz          HRT-Cosworth          1:46.644   6.456
12.  Charles Pic          Virgin-Cosworth       1:46.698   6.510
13.  Nathanael Berthon    HRT-Cosworth          1:48.646   8.458

Young driver test Day 1 – Jean-Eric Vergne leads

Vergne ended the first day on top

Vergne ended the first day on top

Jean-Eric Vergne set the pace on the first day of the young driver test in Abu Dhabi.

Jules Bianchi tested a strange aero device

Jules Bianchi tested a strange aero device

The 21-year-old, who recently tested for Toro Rosso and finished 2nd in this year’s Formula Renault 3.5 Series, set a time of 1:40.011 - 1.530 seconds slower than Sebastian Vettel’s pole position time last Saturday.

He was nearly a second faster than Ferrari test driver Jules Bianchi, who tested a ridiculous-looking aerodynamic device on the side of his car in the morning. Robert Wickens, driving for Renault, was another 1.3 seconds behind.

Fabio Lemer, the fastest driver of the day to never drive an F1 car before, was 4th for Sauber. McLaren shared their car between 30-year-old Gary Paffett and Oliver Turvey finishing 5th and 8th respectively.

GP2 driver Max Chilton (whose brother Tom drives in touring cars) was 6th for Force India. Valtteri Bottas finished in 7th in the Williams FW32.

Mercedes GP test driver Sam Bird was 9th, ahead of Rodolfo Gonzalez (Lotus) and Stefano Coletti (Toro Rosso – also another newcomer to an F1 car). Dani Clos was 12th for HRT.

The two slowest drivers of the day were both Virgin Racing drivers. Charles Pic – who is widely tipped to join the team next year – finished three tenths faster than Adrian Quaife-Hobbs.

Bottas was the only driver to suffer serious technical failure, losing several hours of running time due to a gearbox problem.

Times from day 1:

 1.  Jean-Eric Vergne     Red Bull-Renault      1:40.011   83
 2.  Jules Bianchi        Ferrari               1:40.960   85
 3.  Robert Wickens       Renault               1:42.217   78
 4.  Fabio Leimer         Sauber-Ferrari        1:42.331   67
 5.  Gary Paffett         McLaren-Mercedes      1:42.912   41
 6.  Max Chilton          Force India-Mercedes  1:43.016   81
 7.  Valtteri Bottas      Williams-Cosworth     1:43.118   71
 8.  Oliver Turvey        McLaren-Mercedes      1:43.502   35
 9.  Sam Bird             Mercedes GP           1:43.548   51
10.  Rodolfo Gonzalez     Lotus-Renault         1:44.022   87
11.  Stefano Coletti      Toro Rosso-Ferrari    1:45.278   87
12.  Dani Clos            HRT-Cosworth          1:45.329   68
13.  Charles Pic          Virgin-Cosworth       1:46.930   30
14.  Adrian Quaife-Hobbs  Virgin-Cosworth       1:47.292   32

Bianchi signs long-term deal with Ferrari

Jules-BianchiFormula 3 Euroseries champion Jules Bianchi has been signed onto a long-term deal with Ferrari. It is currently unclear what role he will have within the team.

It is understood that he has signed a “multi-year contract” to form “part of the group of Ferrari drivers”. Besides Bianchi, Ferrari already have Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa, Giancarlo Fisichella, Luca Badoer and Marc Gene as part of their roster.

Bianchi said: “This is the first step on a journey that could turn out very nicely, but I’m equally aware that there is still a long way to go to get to Formula One”. His manager, Nicolas Todt, said: “We are very happy to do this long-term deal, which was completed a short time ago”. His role is undefined for the moment, but from now on, he will be at Ferrari’s disposal. His first Ferrari drive is obviously at this young driver test.”

It has also been reported that Bianchi will partner Sam Bird, at the ART GP2 team for 2010.

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