Force India reserve Jules Bianchi is to join Tech 1 Racing for the upcoming Formula Renault 3.5 campaign.
The French racer has spent the past two years competing in GP2, finishing 3rd in the series on both occasions, taking one win in the process.
Bianchi will be taking part in nine Friday morning sessions during the Formula 1 season, rendering his participation in the GP2 series a virtually impossible prospect.
However due to the relative lack of clashes with Grand Prix weekends over the course of its season, Formula Renault 3.5 is a rather more viable option for ‘Friday drivers’. The 22-year-old was keen not to overstate how crucial this year could be.
“I am very happy to be driving for Tech 1 Racing in the 2012 Formula Renault 3.5 Series. This year is very important for my career and, as a young driver, it’s crucial to have the opportunity to race in such a competitive environment.
“I will do my best to help the team to achieve its goals this season. I also would like to thank Scuderia Ferrari and Sahara Force India F1 for allowing me to do so.”
Bianchi will partner the highly rated Estonian Kevin Korjus at Tech 1 – with both gunning for the series title, the French team may be in for a tense year. It is arguable that Bianchi, already 22 years old, will be under greater pressure to perform, especially when considering the extra experience the Frenchman possesses.
Korjus, 19, finished 6th in last season’s Formula Renault 3.5 campaign, after taking three wins from eighteen races.
Tech 1 Racing’s owner, Simon Abadie, has been keen to welcome Bianchi to the operation.
“The whole Tech 1 Racing team is delighted to welcome Jules Bianchi for the coming season. He will be a key player in the battle to achieve our objectives – the teams’ and drivers’ titles.
“With Jules Bianchi and Kevin Korjus we have two drivers capable of fighting for victory. Jules’s experience will help us develop the car. It’s not the first time we’ve worked with a driver who’s part of an F1 team.
“Jules will help us take advantage of all his know-how to fine-tune the new Formula Renault 3.5 single-seater. His arrival is very positive for Tech 1 Racing and also for the Formula Renault 3.5 Series in general. In exchange we want to help him cross the final hurdle and make it into Formula 1.”
Winner of the 2009 Formula 3 Euro Series, Bianchi is part of the Ferrari Driver Academy that also produced Sauber driver Sergio Perez.
Other members of the Ferrari Driver Academy include Raffaele Marciello (Toyota Racing Series), Brandon Maïsano (Italian Formula 3) and Canadian Karting ace Lance Stroll.