Jules Bianchi’s career could just be set to take off after the Frenchman claimed both his and the Marussia team’s first points in Formula One during a frantic Monaco Grand Prix on Sunday.
Bianchi, racing in his second season of F1, produced a fine drive from last on the grid – owing to a penalty for an enforced gearbox change on Saturday – to finish ninth, surviving two five-second stop/go penalties in what was a race of attrition around the streets of Monte Carlo.
“It felt like a victory to me,” Bianchi told Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport after the race. “Even if it does not mean so much for others, for us this ninth place is like a win.”
The result, which moves Marussia into ninth in the constructors’ championship, ahead of the still pointless Sauber, could be worth millions of dollars in prize money to the Ferrari-powered team come the end of the season.
But, it could also cost the Banbury-based outfit its star turn, with Bianchi admitting after the race that his Monaco result could be the catalyst to propel him into a seat with a top team in the future, a move he feels he is ready for.
“It can only help,” he said, “but as for the future, we will have to see as the season progresses. I do feel ready for a top team.”
Fernando Alonso, who started his own Formula One career racing with the perennial back-markers Minardi in 2001, praised the Ferrari junior star, who he hopes will be able to use his Monaco result to progress up the grid in 2015.
“It’s fantastic and I am happy for him,” said Alonso. “Jules is not only a Ferrari Academy guy, he is also a friend.
“We spend a lot of time together in Maranello, we play football, we cycle, [and] we travel together for some races.
“I am extremely happy for him, [and] very proud for what this result will mean for his career.
“I have no doubts it will be a good career, but hopefully with this result he can have a more competitive car next year and show his talents even more.”
Marussia’s Team Principal John Booth, who has worked with Bianchi since the Frenchman joined the team at short notice ahead of the 2013 season, echoed the praise of Alonso, and insisted that the 24-year-old was already prepared to make the step up to the senior Ferrari squad if the Scuderia were to come calling at the end of the season, with Kimi Raikkonen still yet to produce his best form since making his return to Ferrari.
“I think he’s ready to go now. If they [Ferrari] need him, I think he’s ready to go,” he told Reuters. “I think he’s got a long career in F1. Absolute top driver.”
By virtue of Bianchi’s points, Marussia’s rivals Caterham are now the sole holders of the ignominious record of the most races entered by a team without scoring an F1 point, the Leafield-based squad having made its debut alongside Marussia – then Virgin Racing – at the Bahrain Grand Prix in 2010.
Images courtesy of Marussia Formula One Team