F1 2012: Jules Bianchi Confirmed as Force India Reserve Driver

Neil James@NeilosJamesFeatured ColumnistJanuary 27, 2012

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 15:  Jules Bianchi of France and testing for Scuderia Ferrari at the Formula 1 Young Drivers Test, Yas Marina Circuit on November 15, 2011 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Photo by Andrew Hone/Getty Images  (Photo by Andrew Hone/Getty Images)
Andrew Hone/Getty Images

Force India have named Jules Bianchi as their reserve driver for the 2012 season.

One of the leading lights of the Ferrari Driver Academy, Bianchi will drive in a minimum of nine practice sessions over the course of the season—using the car of either Paul di Resta or Nico Hulkenberg.

Bianchi occupied the reserve driver role for Ferrari in 2011, but the Italian team do not give reserve drivers an opportunity to drive in Friday practice.  The move to Force India will give him the opportunity to do this while remaining a part of the Ferrari family.

In a statement on the Force India website, Bianchi said:

I’m obviously excited to join Sahara Force India and the chance to get track time during race weekends is an important step for me.  Being regularly in a current car is the best way to learn quickly and I hope it will put me in a strong position to one day move into a race seat.

The 22-year-old Bianchi is an outside bet to replace Felipe Massa at Ferrari in 2013, and his record in the lower formulae is promising.  Though a race seat for this year would have been his preferred option, a reserve role with the guarantee of track time is the next best thing.

And with a little more valuable experience behind him, it's likely we'll see him on the grid proper in the not-too-distant future.