Mere hours after the team’s Cosworth engine had fired its last howl for the 2011 season, Marussia (nee Virgin Racing) has announced it will dispense with Jérôme d’Ambrosio’s services for 2012, having signed Frenchman Charles Pic in his place.
The 21-year-old Frenchman – who is well-supported with funds from his family’s haulage firm – is another GP2 graduate to join the Formula 1 ranks. Last year, he claimed two wins and five podiums en route to finishing fourth overall in the championship.
Speculation about Pic joining the team grew in the days leading up to the recent ‘Young Drivers’ test at Abu Dhabi, when he was given additional running with Virgin Racing and had his scheduled outing with Team Lotus cancelled.
“I’m very pleased to welcome Charles to Marussia Virgin Racing as Timo’s team-mate for 2012,” team boss John Booth has said in a media release issued shortly after Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix.
“[In] our Young Driver Test in Abu Dhabi last week, we put him through a series of tough tests to thoroughly evaluate his potential. This was his first time in a Formula One car so it should have been quite daunting, however Charles was extremely focused on what needed to be done and absolutely rose to the challenge. He continued to improve in every area but his race simulation work particularly caught our eye.”
The announcement is sad news for d’Ambrosio, who will now find himself scrambling for one of the few remaining seats on the grid, although he is likely to follow the same path of the very man he replaced, Lucas di Grassi, in scratching for a test driver opportunity.
This is hardly a fair outcome for the Belgian, who has exceeded expectations by running close to – and occasionally even ahead of – team-mate Timo Glock. D’Ambrosio is well supported financially, and with some help from his manager (Renault team boss Eric Boullier), he may be able to find a drive with another team.
[Images via LAT]