Who will sub for Jules Bianchi?
August 3, 2010 4 Comments
Though some elite sports figures (for example, Valentino Rossi) recover miraculously ahead of schedule, I understand Jules Bianchi will most likely miss both Spa and Monza, with a possible final appearance at Abu Dhabi if he’s fit enough to race the GP2 Dallara.
This opens up a prime seat at ART, albeit for 2 races, and the rumor mill is already hard at work putting names to that #1 red and white car.
Bear in mind that in the almost 6 years of GP2 history, ART has only changed drivers in 2 seasons. The first was in 2007, when a Red Bull-sponsored Ammermuller was injured and eventually replaced by Mikhail Aleshin, only to see Sebastien Buemi step in for the rest of the season. Then, in 2008, a seriously unhappy Luca Filippi dumped ART due to the preferential treatment granted to Romain Grosjean, with Sakon Yamamoto filling in. Apart from these, ART has been notably stable in its driver pairings.
We try to list the potential drivers at ART and the possible reasons that could support this.
1. Romain Grosjean: The former ART driver could be in a good position to sub in for Bianchi. As written in the previous post, he is being wooed by Gravity, but this does not prevent Grosjean from filling in at ART. Bear in mind, that the ultimate objective is to get Romain back to F1, and a seat at ART is a good one to be in. Also, racing for DAMS is a tricky proposition, as one of the 2 Gravity drivers would have to be dumped. Should Gerard Lopez come up with a minor “incentive” for Vasseur and Todt, Romain could be racing the #1 car at Spa.
2. Esteban Gutierrez: The GP3 Series leader and ART driver is already being linked to an F1 future. This is still a couple of years away, and his place in 2011 will be in GP2 – very probably at ART. Logical thinking with 2 possible issues: First, Esteban’s GP3 title bid could possibly suffer from a 2-series focus…. double duty could be difficult. Second, lead sponsor Telmex would have to OK Esteban’s move to GP2, not only due to possible payments but to the implicit cost of potentially sacrificing the GP3 title.
3. Mirko Bortolotti: If Bianchi’s spot “belongs” to the Ferrari Driver Academy, then Mirko – former Red Bull driver racing in GP3 and with experience in F2 and F3 – could be a good addition. Though his chances of racing for ART in 2011 are very slim, he is probably very interested in showing himself off to the other top teams in the category. He’s not having a good year in GP3, so he could easily sidestep the rest of the season.
4. Valtteri Bottas: The ART F3 driver, currently under the Williams F1 watchful eye, could be a good candidate since he is also in the running to join ART in 2011, though Bianchi may still be around – freeing up only 1 spot. The team would begin to whet the Finn’s appetite for GP2, though this gamble could be costly should ART still feel the team title is reachable in GP2 (they are 37 points behind Rapax). As no GP2 races coincide with F3 Euroseries races, this wouldn’t hurt the team’s chances in F3, though they trail Signature by a significant margin.
5. Alexander Rossi: Not really in the GP3 title hunt, Rossi has already raced in GP2 Asia and could be a fast substitute in the ART car. Would probably perform better than Bottas on paper, where the Finn could maybe move into Rossi’s slot in GP3. Same argument as Bortolotti for the 2011 ART seat, but Rossi seems like a sure candidate for GP2 in 2011 with one of the top teams.
6. Alvaro Parente: Though I have heard his name being thrown around, the only reason is to make a serious push for the team title in GP2. Alvaro is a fast driver and could put the ART car on top with little effort. We know he has no budget and probably no real path to F1, so it seems like it would be a team decision from Vasseur and Todt to win some races for the sponsors.
Beautiful dilemma that the ART bosses have to solve in the coming weeks. Their problem is not a lack of candidates, but rather an abundance of viable options – many of which have strong implications in their 2011 business interests.
My pick? If I was Frederic Vasseur or Nicolas Todt… I would go for Esteban Gutierrez. With 2 (maybe 3) races required until Bianchi returns, I would be thinking 2011, and I solidly see Esteban there next season.