Of the rookies currently plying their trade in Formula 1, by common consensus, the most impressive of the bunch is Jules Bianchi who got his break this year with Marussia, but it has hardly been plain sailing for the Frenchman who took time out to talk about his first season in Formula 1 thus far.
It can be said that it’s been a very exciting first half year for Bianchi, especially the initial few months. It was all a bit of a roller-coaster ride, with a long climb, followed by the wait for Force India, the team for which he had filled the third driver role in 2012, to decide on its line-up, the terrible drop, which is pretty much the only way to describe the negative outcome of this story and then the immediate swing back up, which ended with an agreement with the Marussia F1 Team which has seen him take part in his first season as an official F1 driver.
However, these past six months have not brought Bianchi’s well known links to the Ferrari, and particulalry the Ferrari Driver Academy to an end, although his visits to the Academy have become few and far between given his current F1 duties.
“It’s true, I come here less often than in past years because, apart from the races, there are so many other things which I have to do with my new team,” Bianchi explained during a break in an FDA promotional event at the Fiorano Track.
“I often go to the team’s factory to talk to the engineers and before each grand prix there are always sessions on the simulator. However, I am still in contact with Luca Baldisserri: we speak on the phone during race weekends and the advice he gives me is always useful. I must say, tackling my first year as an [F1] race driver, all the experienced I gained with the FDA has been really important: not just in terms of the technical aspect, but also for all the rest, such as how to deal with the sponsors and the media. It was definitely a plus at a time when I am getting to grips with the top level of the sport.”
“I am very happy to finally have gottenthe chance to make my F1 debut, because at one point this winter, I’d given up hope,” recalled Bianchi.
“The time ticked by and Force India didn’t give me any answer for weeks. Then, when Stefano Domenicali called me to say the opportunity had gone, I was really very disappointed, but luckily that only lasted a few hours. Actually, another call came through from Maranello, which said I had to get ready to go to Barcelona where the last test session was underway and that there was a chance I could go to Marussia! At first, I didn’t want to raise my hopes but then they started to get ever stronger and when I went for the seat fitting, I felt I’d got it, even if there were a few contractual details still to be sorted.”
From then on, his prospects changed, “It’s true, I felt a great sense of relief and I’m grateful to everyone who helped me reach one of the targets, including Ferrari and my manager, Nicolas Todt, that I had set myself at the start of my career.”
“I soon felt at home at Marussia and I immediately understood the difference between being a race driver for a team and its third driver. You are a lot more involved and feel you are an integral part of the programme. It also changes your relationship with the other drivers, who now look on me differently.”
“The week before Melbourne I was totally focused on the race and there was room for nothing else in my head,” he continued. “I spent four days at the factory to be with the team and to get to know everyone better and then on the Sunday, I flew to Australia. Honestly, once there, I did not feel under excessive pressure, neither before qualifying, nor before the race. In fact, I was actually much more relaxed than, for example last year at the World Series race weekends! Of course, the targets are different: for us a ‘win’ is to finish ahead of Caterham.”
“Do I miss fighting for the victory? Every driver wants to win but the important thing is to manage to create for yourself the right incentives and that’s what I’m doing. I am pleased with the way the first races have gone, with the exception of the last one…”
For Bianchi, there is of course the one dream still waiting to be realised. “Yes, it’s always there and there’s no point talking about it…everyone can imagine exactly what it is! (Ferrari)
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