Jules Bianchi has emerged as a surprise contender for a race seat at Sauber next year. The rumour follows reports in the Swiss press last week that the place reserved for the Hinwil based team’s confirmed 2012 driver Kamui Kobayashi could now be in doubt.
Blick newspaper said the speculation had “surprised” Sauber officials, mere days after boss Peter Sauber said the driver lineup is not changing. Rumours in the French media, including sport365.fr, insist however that Frenchman Bianchi has a chance.
The 22-year-old is Sauber engine supplier Ferrari’s official reserve driver, and managed by Nicolas Todt — the father of former Ferrari boss and now FIA president Jean Todt.
The move would pair Bianchi with Ferrari’s other development driver Sergio Perez, with the duo both tipped as leading candidates to succeed Felipe Massa at Maranello beyond 2012.
If the rumour is confirmed, it is great news for France, whose presence in F1 had dwindled dramatically in recent years.
Already, Romain Grosjean and Charles Pic are signed up for 2012, Jean-Eric Vergne is rising through the junior ranks at Red Bull, and Paul Ricard is tipped as a possible grand prix venue in the not-too-distant future.