Can Bianchi be the Jule in Marussia's crown?

 

It may not have been the easiest or smoothest of entries into Formula 1, but Jules Bianchi is finally here and ready to show what he can do in a race seat. Just last week it looked like the 23-year-old Frenchman's chances of a 2013 race drive had vanished when it became apparent that Adrian Sutil had filled the second seat at Force India, but as ever Formula 1 has shown what a fast paced and ruthless sport it can be. One week Luiz Razia is in, the next he's out. Financial issues resulted in Marussia being forced to cancel his contract, paving the way for Bianchi to enter the sport, but not in the seat that many had expected him to fill several weeks back.

Bianchi is a man that arrives into Formula 1 with a lot of promise and excitement surrounding him. The 2012 World Series by Renault runner up and 2009 F3 Euro Series Champion had long been tipped to race in Formula 1, particularly given the experience he gained in Friday sessions with Force India last season. Part of the Ferrari Driver Academy since 2009, it has been rumoured that the Frenchman's signing with any potential team could lead to a new engine deal with Ferrari for 2014. Whether this will happen remains to be seen, but could have been a key in the deal to take Bianchi to the Russian owned outfit.

So, what can we expect from Bianchi this season? It's sure to be tough for him and fellow rookie team mate Max Chilton, but I think we've seen in the pre-season tests that the team have made some positive progress and look like they just have the edge of biggest rivals Caterham. Will the decision to have two rookies in the team by a risk too far for Marussia? Possibly, but in Jules Bianchi that do at least have someone who's driven in multiple sessions for a midfield outfit and has spent the last couple of years surrounded by all things Ferrari.

In terms of Formula 1 experience I think we can compare him to Valtteri Bottas, the Finn making his debut this season with Williams. Now whilst I don't expect the pair to be fighting on track all that often, I think it could make an interesting comparison to see how the two get on relative to each other. Both are 23, both spent 2012 running in the Friday practice sessions and both enter 2013 with big expectations. However, when it comes to pure comparisons, the only real one (as ever) will be against his team mate, Max Chilton.

2013 could be a big year for Marussia. With HRT having now left the sport, it leaves just themselves and Caterham fighting it out at the back. The two cars appear to have performed relatively similarly in the pre-season tests, and it could come down to which team can give their inexperienced drivers the best possible car on a consistent basis that will come out on top. We saw just how close it was last year between the pair, and with 3 rookie drivers now filling the 4 seats, car consistency could be even more of a factor.

As I've just mentioned, the lack of Formula 1 experience at the back of this year's field is there for all to see. In previous years we've had the now departed Timo Glock, Heikki Kovalainen, Jarno Trulli and Vitaly Petrov filling the seats at the rear of the grid, but it's now just Charles Pic who has competed in full race weekend, let alone a full racing campaign. Something tells me that Jules Bianchi could be the key difference and give Marussia the edge over Caterham this year. He's showed well when representing Force India and arrives having had several strong seasons in GP2 and WSR.

Having said that, I truly believe that fellow Frenchman Charles Pic is destined for good things having impressed many last season with, funnily enough, Marussia. The battle of the French will be interesting to observe throughout the year, with hopefully both being able to show off their talents, even if they're not in a position to fight for the honours at the front. My prediction; Bianchi (and Marussia) will just edge it.

So, what do you think? Will Bianchi live up to the expectation that so many in and out of the paddock have of him? Can he help Marussia to deliver their highest placed finish in Formula 1 to date? How do you think he'll fare against fellow rookie and team mate Max Chilton? Let me know by commenting below!

Paul Godley - 04/03/2013

Jules Bianchi - via f1fanatic.

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