Marussia has signed Ferrari protégé Jules Bianchi and terminated its contract with Luiz Razia.
The Brazilian’s sponsors failed to meet their obligations after he was announced as a race driver at the start of February. Although he drove the car at the Jerez test Razia was not allowed to run either at the second test in Barcelona, or this week at the same venue, while the team awaited his funds.
Bianchi was Force India’s reserve driver last year, but lost the 2013 race seat to Adrian Sutil earlier this week.
“Jules is a proven talent who is highly regarded within the paddock,” said team boss John Booth. “He has been on a clear trajectory towards Formula 1 and has achieved some impressive performances through the various feeder formulae, notably his 2012 season in Formula Renault 3.5 when he was also Reserve Driver for Force India. He is part of the Ferrari Driver Academy and his obvious pedigree put him on the radar for a number of teams over the winter as a driver ready to step up to Formula 1.
“We have found ourselves in a situation where we have had to terminate our contract with Luiz Razia. 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.
“We can now focus on the remainder of the testing programme and preparing for what looks to be a promising season for our Team. Jules can now look forward to a very swift initiation into the Team over the course of the next two days here in Barcelona, when he is expected to run for one and a half days to afford both our drivers some dry running with the latest aero specification.”
“I am thrilled to have secured a race seat with the Marussia F1 Team,” said Bianchi. “Racing in Formula 1 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.
“I am also very grateful to the Ferrari Driver Academy that has always supported me and has given me the possibility to mature as a racing driver enabling me to be fully prepared for this new exciting challenge. The next two weeks of preparation for the season will be incredibly busy but I am ready to get started tomorrow with my first day in the MR02.”
Jules is the grandson of 60s Le Mans racer Mauro Bianchi, and great-nephew of Lucien. The latter started 17 Grands Prix between 1960 and 1968, and earned a third place in Monaco in his final F1 season.
He was also a works Ford driver at Le Mans, winning with Pedro Rodriguez in a John Wyer GT40. He also appeared at Indy in 1967, but having made the field initially he was bumped while racing in Europe on the second qualifying weekend. He died in a testing accident at Le Mans in March 1969.