Jules Bianchi becomes Force India reserve

Today it was confirmed by Force India that Jules Bianchi will be coming to the team for 2012. Bianchi, who has been a Ferrari test driver and remains in their driver training program, will take part in some of the pre-season testing and a number of Friday practice sessions.
The Frenchman is the grandnephew of Lucien Bianchi, a Belgian racing driver who drove sporadically in F1 and came third in the 1968 Monaco Grand Prix. Bianchi regularly took part in Le Mans, and died in 1969 when his Alfa Romeo T33 hit a telegraph pole during testing.
As for Jules, he has finished third in GP2 for the last two seasons, both years with ART (now Lotus). In fact, these have been his only years in the series, and include a pole position on his debut! Though he has only won one GP2 race (the 2011 British feature race), he has been incredibly consistent throughout his whole time in the series. He also finished second in the 2011 GP2 Asia series, winning the Abu Dhabi feature race. Before GP2 he was still an ART driver, and won the F3 Euroseries in 2009 having come third the year before. It is a shame that this fantastic driver isn’t in F1 yet. However, Force India have two equally good drivers in their main lineup. They will be hard to replace.

Lotus have named their new car the E20, as it is the 20th car to be built at Enstone. Though the team has changed names twice, the E20 is a direct successor of the Benetton F1 cars that were first made there.

Finally, GP3 have made some announcements over the last couple of days. First, the series will finally be racing at Monaco alongside F1, GP2 and FR 3.5. This is great news for the series, and will be a real encouragement for young drivers. As if that wasn’t enough, Pirelli will be offering a prize to the champion of the series – 200,000 Euros, plus a GP2 test drive over the winter break – providing the driver moves to a GP2 team the next season. So far, only one of the two GP3 champions has moved to GP2 the following season, though Valtteri Bottas’s plans have not yet been announced. It is a very tempting reward. Hopefully, it will attract a fantastic calibre of drivers this season and in the years to come.

As I was writing this post, Formula Renault UK made a big announcement which I will post about in a short while.

Monaco 2011 weekend schedule

Thursday

Time

BST

Series

Session

Length

8:30

7:30

FR3.5

Practice

45 mins

10:00

9:00

F1

Practice 1

90 mins

12:00

11:00

GP2

Practice

30 mins

14:00

13:00

F1

Practice 2

90 mins

16:15

15:15

GP2

Qualifying

30 mins

17:20

16:20

PSC

Practice

45 mins

Friday

Time

BST

Series

Session

Length

9:30*

8:30

PSC

Qualifying

45 mins

11:15

10:15

GP2

Race 1

45 laps

*This is the time on racecam.de. The Grand Prix de Monaco site says 9am.

Saturday

Time

BST

Series

Session

Length

9:00

8:00

FR3.5

Qualifying A

25 mins

9:30

8:30

FR3.5

Qualifying B

25 mins

11:00

10:00

F1

Practice 3

60 mins

14:00

13:00

F1

Qualifying

60 mins

16:10

15:10

GP2

Race 2

30 laps

Sunday

Time

BST

Series

Session

Length

9:45

8:45

PSC

Race

35 mins

11:10

10:10

FR3.5

Race

45 mins

14:00

13:00

F1

Race

78 laps

Monaco news

Construction of the pit and paddock is nearly complete in Monaco. Teams drove yesterday from Barcelona to Monaco, and have already set everything up. However, there was also a mad fire at Ste Devote corner (that’s the first one where Jenson Button went out early in the race last year), which means that tarmac is having to be relaid there tonight and tomorrow. So that could be interesting. It seems that it’s on the racing line and breaking point.
First comment I saw on this said “where’s Kovalainen when you need him?” He must be so frustrated with all the fire references by now!

The FIA are expected to agree on a rule that says if a driver gets three reprimands then he gets a 5-place grid penalty at the next race. Since drivers can get reprimands for being late for a PR event, they will have to be careful. At least this means reprimands mean something.

In NASCAR-land, Kimi Raikkonen has been having fun with trucks. Now he’s stepping up to the second tier of the series in the next race to try out some proper cars. Jaques Villeneue, another former F1 champion, also drives a few races in that series. But whether the two will ever compete… NASCAR is just going around in circles anyway.

F1 is 61

Sixty-one years ago, the first ever Formula One championship race took place. This was at Silverstone, the fifth race of the summer but the first ever championship race. The winner was Nino Farina, an Italian, who also won the world championship that year for Alfa Romeo. Future genius Juan Manuel Fangio retired with an engine problem.
These days, the idea of a non-championship race is strange, but F1 Fanatic has suggested bringing them back instead of returning to more testing. It would allow young drivers the chance to experience an F1 car (Jules Bianchi vs Romain Grosjean, anyone?), and also allow teams to test parts on their cars. Being non-championship, certain rules could be dropped. But I suggest you read the article, with which I think I agree.
Actually, I think the Monte-Carlo Grand Prix should be dropped from the championship race calendar, and continue as a non-championship race, but it will never happen because of how central the place is to F1. I think it’s a terrible, boring race, too many people crash out, and it’s almost impossible to overtake.