In an interview with the media today, former Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemelo believes that Jules Bianchi was being groomed to replace Kimi Raikkonen at Ferrari before his tragic death on Friday night.
The Frenchman, who on July 18th 2015 died as a result of serious head injuries sustained in an accident during the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, was in his second season with backmarkers Marussia, but had also been a member of Ferrari’s driver development programme since 2009.
Bianchi did get his chance to test with the team on a handful of occasions in those years and he was also asked to step in to replace Raikkonen during last year’s post-British Grand Prix test and duly impressed by setting the pace at Silverstone.
Indeed, the 25 year-old Frenchman was held in such high regard amongst the Ferrari team that he was being primed to eventually secure a race drive with Ferrari, most likely as Raikkonen’s replacement from 2016. In his interview with the media today diMontezemelo confirmed that Bianchi had been chosen by Ferrari for a race seat in the future as follows:-
‘We had chosen him for the future, once the collaboration with Raikkonen was over. Jules Bianchi was one of us, he was a member of the Ferrari family. He was a first-class – private, fast, polite, very attached to Ferrari and promising.
‘A bitter fate has taken him away, leaving us in a huge void. I am close to his family, which in recent months has shown great courage at a difficult time, and to his many friends at Ferrari. We lost an exceptional guy, we will remember all with great affection.’