Greater Noida: It is not easy being a reserve driver in Formula One. While the regulars hog the limelight during the race weekends, the third driver quietly goes about doing his chores in the garage. On the track, he is expected to deliver in the handful of opportunities he gets.
Sahara Force India's Jules Bianchi is one such face in the paddock. As he is not taking part in the practice sessions this weekend at the Indian Grand Prix, he is busy obliging team guests at the Buddh International Circuit.
"To be honest, I don't get much time off even as a reserve," Bianchi told IANS at the team's hospitality area. "There is always something happening. Everything is same as a permanent driver when I am driving in practice. When I am not, I have promotional and sponsor commitment to deal with," said the affable 23-year-old from France.
Bianchi burst onto the F1 scene with Ferrari last season before shifting to Force India. He was noticed after his F3 triumph in 2009 and competed in GP2 the next season. Bianchi misses the thrill of zooming around the track every weekend but is quite content with his role at the moment.
"It has been an important time of my career. I have had a lot of experience in a Formula 1 car, thanks to Force India. After eight practice sessions for them, I feel ready to drive full time. Getting an opportunity like this in a competitive environment, I cannot complain. And I have to be prepared when racing opportunity arises."
There is plenty of talk about the attitude of drivers who have graduated to F1 from GP2. Bianchi's contemporary Romain Grosjean has been responsible for multiple first corner accidents this season. Grosjean thinks it is tough for rookies.
"I would say it is difficult to be a young driver in F1, irrespective of your background. You need a lot of track time to get used to an F1 car, the procedure, switches on the steering. GP2 is a perfect series even though the car is 10 seconds slower than F1," said Grosjean.
However, hopes are high from the Frenchman, who is the grandson of three-time World GT Champion Mauro Bianchi.
Bianchi says his main aim is to land a seat for the 2013 season and a full-time job with Force India would be great. I will be driving in Abu Dhabi free practice and I look forward to that. I am getting quicker and quicker with each opportunity. It would be great to stay at Force India. The team is doing a good job and we are proud of it," said Bianchi.
Comparing his stints at Ferrari and Force India, he said: "The difference is only in the number of people, Ferrari have a lot more. People are really nice here. It is like a small family now. Lot of the factory people are Indians. We sometimes end up eating Indian food even during European rounds."
Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg are the permanent drivers for Force India.