As winter testing approaches, the remaining seats in Formula One are few and far between…in fact, there may be really only one or two left. With the Paul di Resta already confirmed at Force India, the remaining seat is said to be under contention with Adrian Sutil and Jules Bianchi in the lead for 2013. Bianchi is a Ferrari development driver and speaking at the Wrooom event, Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali said:
“Jules is part of our Driver Academy, and we are trying to find a solution for him,” explained Domenicali.
“Last year he was the third driver of Force India, and we are trying to find a solution so he can grow and show his worth. But I have no further information.”
AUTOSPORT brings up a great reminder as to what Ferrari could be doing to help secure the seat for Bianchi. They have a vested interest in getting the young Frenchman seat time in F1 and perhaps Ferrari could have something Force India might be interested in.
As AUTOSPORT points out, Force India’s engine supply agreement with Mercedes ends in 2014 and with the upcoming changes to the regulations and engine format for the same year, perhaps Force India could be interested in a new Ferrari engine in the back of their car. It’s a fine point to remember but I am left wondering if Ferrari would gamble the supply of engines for free or even a cut rate just to get Bianchi in a Force India seat for 2014.
How much faith and investment would Ferrari have to have in Bianchi to see them foster an engine supply deal for a development driver? With the pay-to-drive scenario as ripe as it has ever been in F1, why not ask Bianchi to squeeze more cash out of his sponsors to secure the deal with Force India…it’s surely what Sutil would have to do to secure the ride as he has no manufacturer behind him lobbying for his case.
I can’t imagine Ferrari entertaining anything such as a cut rate for engines or even free engines to get a driver a seat. It doesn’t play well with Ferrari’s ethos of team-before-driver and if they are keen to secure an engine deal at full price and that’s appealing to Force India (instead of using a Mercedes lump) then perhaps this makes sense. We’ll see if this has any bearing on a Bianchi ride for 2013 at Force India but it would be one of the first times I can recall Ferrari sticking it’s neck way out with a long-term supply contract tied to a driver. I’m not suggesting they haven’t or wouldn’t do something like this…I just haven’t read that before and can’t recall a time when it has happened. Perhaps some of you veterans out there can remind me of a time when they did engage in a supply agreement for a driver.