Nancy Knapp Schilke, F1 correspondent
Bianchi joins list of GP2 drivers moving up the FIA Formula One ladder
Jules Bianchi ended the 2011 Asian GP2 Series short winter season as the sub-champion. He followed up on his performance with the Lotus ART team in the full season of the main GP2 Series by placing third in the overall standings; the same finish he had in 2010.
Today, the Frenchman was signed by Force India as their reserve driver. “I am delighted to welcome Jules into the Sahara Force India family. We always keep an eye on young, talented drivers and his performance in GP2 certainly impressed us all,” said Dr. Vijay Mallya, Team Principal and Managing Director.
Bianchi comes to the team with two championships under his belt: French Formula Renault 2.0 (SG Formula) and the 2009 Formula Three Euroseries (ART GP). Last year, he was a test driver for the Ferrari team.
Now at the age of 22, the French racer will be able to get behind the wheel of an FIA Formula One car during official Friday practice. The team has announced that Bianchi will be on track for a minimum of nine Grand Prix weekends this year and he will work with the team's engineers and both of Force India's drivers, Paul Di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg.
Bianchi commented, “I’m obviously excited to join Sahara Force India and the chance to get track time during race weekends is an important step for me. Being regularly in a current car is the best way to learn quickly and I hope it will put me in a strong position to one day move into a race seat.”
Prior to the start of the Formula One season, Bianchi will take his first official laps in the VJM05 at Jerez next month. “The next few months will be really exciting as I get to know the team, see how they work, and prepare for my time in the car. I would like to thank everyone for believing in me and especially Sahara Force India for giving me this great opportunity,” he said.
Force India's 2012 challenger will be unveiled on Friday, Feb. 3rd at Silverstone. The VJM05 will be put through its paces days later at the Jerez circuit in Spain.