Reports in France’s L’Equipe newspaper are claiming that GP2 racer Charles Pic has inked a deal with Virgin Racing (which will be renamed Marussia) to race for the team in 2012.
The news, when it is formally announced, will make Pic the first Frenchman to race in Formula 1 since Romain Grosjean’s short-lived stint at Renault in 2009.
It also effectively means that the team’s rookie racer, Jérôme d’Ambrosio, will be out of a drive.
There had been fairly unsubstantiated rumours in the last few weeks claiming that 21-year-old Pic – who is managed by former Grand Prix driver Olivier Panis – was the most likely candidate to join Virgin Racing and replace d’Ambrosio, who has generally performed quite capably in his debut F1 season.
“In 2012, there will be at least one Frenchman on the grid,” claims the newspaper article.
Pic had also been in talks with Toro Rosso about driving for the team at the upcoming Abu Dhabi ‘Young Drivers’ test, but it is now known that this deal fell through.
Having led the championship mid-season, Pic finished fourth in this year’s GP2 standings driving for the Barwa Addax team.
Money has undoubtedly played a role in Pic (allegedly) securing the second seat with the Sheffield-based outfit, and it’s no doubt a fairly straightforward case that his backer have been able to outbid d’Ambrosio’s.
Pic’s family owns the Groupe Charles André (GCA) conglomerate, one of Europe’s leading freight and transport companies, which also has interests in construction and hotels. One of the major relationships GCA enjoys is being the primary haulage company for France’s national fuel group, Elf, which has a long history of sponsorship in Formula 1, most notably with the Renault and Ligier teams.
[Images via LAT]