May 14, 2014 (F1plus/Katie Grimmett).- Jules Bianchi is the driver all other racers are talking about for his natural ability and undeniable potential. To garner such respect from your racing peers and rivals is an impressive feat. In my opinion, there is no greater compliment.
We have all heard drivers shift blame or criticise a particular move either during an interview or on social media sites, but no such comments have ever been aimed towards an always-smiling Bianchi, a man Ferrari have moulded for years.
Admittedly, when driving a Marussia, it can be difficult to impress, particularly when partnered alongside a reliable, if not occasionally sluggish, Max Chilton. However, the Frenchman’s previous form, in a car capable of winning championships, is undisputed; he can count a runner-up position in Formula Renault 3.5 and a Euro F3 championship to his credit.
It is an impressive feat and perhaps no surprise, therefore, that he has a place on a Ferrari development scheme?
Indeed, Alexander Rossi, the fan favourite currently under the guidance of Caterham, has previously expressed his admiration for the Marussia driver. So too has Williams’ reserve driver, Felipe Nasr, whose impressive showings in free practice have earned him a reputation of his own. As rivals, competitors and both outstanding drivers in their own right, it did make me sit up and think.
Bianchi’s general demeanour is deceptive and masks the steely determination beneath the helmet. His narrow loss of the 2012 Formula Renault 3.5 title will have wounded him so too his loss of the 2013 Force India seat following a lengthy testing battle with Adrian Sutil. The smile remains but so does his desire to win.
Money can buy a seat but experience, in some ways, is priceless. Marussia may not be the team of champions but wheel-to-wheel racing teaches a driver more than watching from the sidelines ever could. Those who have followed his career since that seemingly never-ending fight with Sutil, may not be aware of the talent the Frenchman possesses and understandably so.
There is one win in particular that I remember from during his time in Formula Renault 3.5. The 2012 racing circus had arrived in Paul Ricard for the penultimate round. An intense battle in the second qualifying ensues between Bianchi and eventual championship victor, Robin Frijns - who, indecently, you can now find in the Caterham garage as their reserve driver.
Bianchi was on pole, his third of the season. A poor start by his nearest rivals, Antonio Felix da Costa and Arthur Pic saw him extend his lead. DRS was new to FR3.5 and was utilised by those behind but alas, to no avail. Bianchi took his maiden series win convincingly. To those watching it was a master class, a pole to flag victory that we only usually see in F1 from Red Bull and Mercedes these days.
Sadly, Bianchi is lacking opportunities to show pace like this again but one day his time will come. His links to Ferrari could prove to be most valuable but with GP2 driver, Raffaele Marciello waiting in the wings, the twenty-four-year-old will need to hope his experience is enough.
Allow me to put forward a theory (and only a theory it is). Let us imagine that the partnership of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen does not produce the fireworks and success that many hoped. Perhaps it would be time to put another driver in the car? A midfield driver like Nico Hulkenberg or Sergio Perez, who was once formerly a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy in his own right, would perhaps be well suited?
Upon the retirement of either Fernando Alonso or Kimi Raikkonen, whenever that may be, Ferrari could then show the worth of their investment in both this midfield driver and Bianchi by providing a strong line up that is dynamic, fast-paced and highly regarded.
It is just a thought.
Simply put, Jules Bianchi deserves more than the Marussia seat he currently calls his own. Granted it may not come in the next year or two, but I seriously hope Formula 1 makes a sensible decision regarding his, and subsequently its own, future.
Jules Bianchi is one driver whose career is worth following.