Jules Bianchi, the young Frenchman who drives for F1 backmarkers Marussia, deserves a seat in a top team. More specifically, he deserves to drive for Ferrari.
Bianchi has impressed all the way through the single seater formulae. But since making it to Formula 1 at the beginning of 2013, he has consistently demonstrated the skill and maturity €required to merit a drive with Ferrari, the organisation that has backed his rise to Formula 1.
Bianchi is part of Ferrari’s Driver Academy, and therefore has the support of Formula 1’s most famous team as he builds his career in motor sport. While that’s a great position for any young driver to be in, it’s becoming more and more clear that the question needs to be asked: Why is Bianchi not driving for Ferrari?
A Formula 1 driver in a slow car has one major aim – to beat his team-mate. To say Bianchi has beaten his team-mate at Marussia is to make a quite ridiculous understatement. Bianchi has obliterated his team-mate – Max Chilton – since the first time he sat in the cockpit of a Marussia F1 car.
But more than that, Bianchi has put Marussia on the F1 map. Significantly, he scored the team’s first ever points at the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix when he finished 8th (he was demoted to 9th as a result of a penalty incurred during the race).
Today, Bianchi showed his class yet again, by qualifying 16th for tomorrow’s Belgian Grand Prix. 16th doesn’t sound particularly impressive, but consider that Bianchi was over a second a half quicker than his own team-mate in Q1 and matched the Q1 lap time of Sauber’s Adrian Sutil.
Whenever difficult conditions present themselves – like in today’s wet Belgian GP qualifying session – Bianchi performs extremely well. Whenever conditions are ideal, Bianchi generally outperforms his team-mate. More cannot be asked of a racing driver in any category.
Ferrari’s drivers in 2014 are Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen. Both are former world champions, which is very unusual for Ferrari – before signing Michael Schumacher for 1996, Ferrari had typically employed up-and-coming drivers and until signing Kimi Raikkonen for this season, Ferrari had never re-employed a former Ferrari world champion.
Jules Bianchi is the ideal driver for Ferrari. He has talent in abundance – that much is very clear. He has shown maturity and determination in his performances in Formula 1 – indicating that he would do the same for Ferrari. Bianchi is also young and has no particular achievements that demand a high salary (he’s not a world champion or even a race winner yet, mostly as the result of not having a quick enough car) – which leaves more of Ferrari’s budget available for car development.
So why is Bianchi not driving for Ferrari? Honestly, I don’t know. If Ferrari don’t come to their senses and offer him a drive for 2015, it is likely that Bianchi will be winning races for one of the other top teams next season.
The mid-season break is finally over, and there could be no better place to celebrate a return to Formula One action than Spa-Francorchamps.
The circuit is one of the oldest in motor racing, having been opened in 1921. It featured on the calendar of the first Formula One season in 1950, and remains a firm favourite with teams, drivers and spectators due to its high-speed, challenging layout and picturesque setting in the Ardennes region of Belgium.
Over the years, the track has, like so many other great tracks around the world, undergone significant changes for reasons of safety. The original circuit was 15km long and ludicrously fast. Today’s F1 cars would probably lap the original layout at average speeds close to 300km/h.
The current layout is the longest on the F1 calendar at 7.004km and, despite being much shorter than the original, has retained the essential character that made the previous layouts so appealing. Watching Formula One cars defy the forces of nature to blast at full-throttle into Eau Rouge and up through Raidillon is breathtaking, and that is only the beginning of the lap. The sweeping curves of the middle sector, followed by the enormously fast Blanchimont left-hander before the Bus Stop chicane, ensure that every lap of this majestic track is thrilling to watch.
The only downside to the Belgian Grand Prix is that it happens but once a year.
300 races for Schumi
Michael Schumacher celebrates his 300th Grand Prix this weekend at the circuit he describes as his “living room”. His description is apt, as Spa was the scene of Schumacher’s first F1 race, his first win, and his seventh World Championship title in 2004. He also holds the record for most wins at Spa, with six.
The Mercedes W03 should be well-suited to the fast, flowing Spa circuit, and so Schumacher will be hoping to add to his impressive CV with a good result. In the 2011 race, he started last and finished fifth in one of the more impressive drives of his comeback. Another performance like that could see the illustrious German on the podium, or perhaps even challenging for victory.
Pirelli are providing their hard and medium compound tyres for the race.
Tyres, and tyre temperatures in particular, have played a significant role in determining results so far this season, and Spa is likely to be no exception, but the high-speed nature of the track should at least make it fairly straightforward to get the tyres up to operating temperature.
Lotus are long overdue a victory, and are well poised to strike at Spa. With their new, more efficient DRS likely to be raced, qualifying performance should be improved, and then the car’s already impressive race pace can take care of the rest.
Kimi Raikkonen has won four out of his last five Belgian Grands Prix, which makes him the favourite to take the Lotus team’s first win of the season.
Circuit Length: 7.004 km
Corners: 19 (some sources count 20)
Race laps: 44
Race length: 308.052 km
Lap Record: 1:45.108 – Kimi Raikkonen / McLaren (2004)
Race winner: Sebastian Vettel / Red Bull
Pole position: Sebastian Vettel / Red Bull – 1:48.298
Fastest lap: Mark Webber / Red Bull – 1:49.883
- The circuit is so long that it is not uncommon to have bright sunshine and heavy rain at different parts of the track at the same time.
- Ferrari have won the race 16 times, more than any other team.
- Championship leader Fernando Alonso has never won at Spa, although his team-mate Felipe Massa took victory in 2008.
Some rain is expected on Friday, but the rest of the weekend is forecast to be dry and sunny. However, sudden unpredictable weather changes are in the nature of Spa, which will doubtless have an effect on the weekend.