BARCELONA, March 1, 2013 (AFP) - France's Jules Bianchi was named as Marussia's second driver for the new Formula One season on Friday to replace axed Brazilian Luiz Razia.
Bianchi, 23, had been in the running for the final seat at Force India before he lost out to Adrian Sutil on Thursday. But his dramatic 24 hours ended on a high note when Razia, who had been named as Mark Chilton's teammate in Jerez last month, was dropped after a reported failure to deliver promised sponsorship to Marussia.
"I am thrilled to have secured a race seat with the Marussia F1 Team," said Bianchi.
"Racing in Formula One this season has been my goal over the winter and after evaluating a number of options I am very excited to have this opportunity to demonstrate that I am ready for this next step in my racing career.
"The next two weeks of preparation for the season will be incredibly busy but I am ready to get started tomorrow (Saturday) with my first day in the MR02."
Marussia said Bianchi will drive at Barcelona on Saturday and Sunday, the final two days of winter testing before the new Formula One season starts in Melbourne on March 17.
"We have found ourselves in a situation where we have had to terminate our contract with Luiz Razia," said Marussia team principal John Booth.
"Having made clear the basis on which we must operate in 2013, and given the steps we had taken to put that new structure in place, we had no alternative but to remain true to the principles which we had identified as being key to securing our long-term future." Razia told www.autosport.com that he was stunned by losing the Marussia drive.
"I'm in a kind of shock, because you expect to be in F1, you are there, announced, testing, and then you are out -- and not because of a driver fault," he said.
"I did everything right in what I could do, but it was really just a circumstantial thing that happened, and that was it."
He added: "I could be angry. I could be very selfish, but I am not. I am really tolerant with these things.
"I understand the position of Marussia and I like the team. They treated me very nicely there and, to be honest, they were trying to sort out the situation for me. They chose me because they wanted me there in the first place, so there are no hard feelings.
"It is also fair to say that Bianchi had a difficult situation and he deserved the drive."