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Jules Bianchi

Jules Bianchi (FRA) Marussia F1.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, 2 March 2013 Jules Bianchi (FRA) Marussia F1 Team MR02.
Formula One Testing, Day 3, Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, 2 March 2013 Jules Bianchi (FRA) Marussia F1 Team MR02.
Formula One Testing, Day 4, Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, 3 March 2013 Jules Bianchi (FRA) Force India F1 VJM05.
Formula One Young Drivers Test, Day Two, Magny Cours, France, Wednesday, 12 September 2012

When it comes to motor racing, Jules Bianchi has always had a lot to live up to. The French driver’s great-uncle, Lucien Bianchi, won the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1968 and scored one podium finish from 17 Grand Prix starts between 1959 and 1968. His grandfather was also a successful racer, whilst his great-grandfather was a mechanic with the works Alfa Romeo team in the 1930s.

Given such lineage, it was perhaps unsurprising that the young Jules gravitated towards racing as a boy, first sitting in a kart at the age of three and starting his first race aged just five. He developed into a highly-talented kart racer and went on to win numerous races at world level.

In 2007 Bianchi made a hugely successful transition to car racing, winning the French Formula Renault 2.0 championship at his first attempt with five wins along the way. Without hesitation, he made the jump up to European-level Formula Three in 2008 with the crack ART Grand Prix squad and excelled again, scoring two wins on his way to third overall in the Euroseries. He also won the prestigious F3 Masters event at Zolder in Belgium in a further nod to his growing talent.

Still relatively inexperienced in single-seater racing, Bianchi elected to remain in the F3 Euroseries in 2009. It would prove to be a good decision - he dominated the opposition, taking nine race wins, six pole positions and seven fastest laps. These results, plus a further two wins as an invitational driver in British F3, earned him a Ferrari Formula One test and, subsequently, a place in the Scuderia’s burgeoning driver academy.

Under the guidance of manager Nicolas Todt (co-owner of ART and manager to Felipe Massa and Pastor Maldonado), Bianchi graduated to GP2. Given his stratospheric rise through the junior ranks, a lot was expected of the young Frenchman and although he didn’t dominate as he had in the past, he performed admirably, coming 12th in the lower key Asian Series and then third (with four podiums) in the 2010 main series.

More testing with Ferrari followed, as did a further assault on GP2 in 2011. Bianchi claimed a win and second place overall in the GP2 Asia series and then followed it up with a win and third place overall in the main series, despite a poor first half of the season.

Having gained considerable Formula One testing experience with Ferrari, Bianchi would add to it in 2012 when he became Force India’s official reserve driver. The role involved driving in nine free practice sessions with the team, as well as work in the squad’s simulator. He balanced the role with racing in Formula Renault 3.5 where, as in other series, he was a regular race winner and only missed out on the title after a controversial tangle with rival Robin Frijns at the final round.

His performances - and the fact that Force India had lost Nico Hulkenberg to rivals Sauber - looked to have given Bianchi a good shot at landing a 2013 F1 race drive with the team. But after testing over the winter, the Silverstone-based squad opted to re-hire former driver Adrian Sutil instead. Bianchi’s disappointment wouldn’t last long though - only a couple of days later he was hired by Marussia in place of former GP2 rival Luiz Razia to achieve his Formula One ambition. He proved one of stars of the early 2013 season, dragging Marussia’s much improved MR02 up the grid into battles with faster cars, and his P13 finish in Malaysia ultimately gave the fledgling team their first top-ten placing in final constructor standings. Perhaps not surprisingly, they chose to retain him for 2014.