D’Ambrosio to drive for Virgin on Fridays

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Jerome d’Ambrosio will drive for Virgin in practice sessions at four of the final five races of the season.

The Belgian GP2 driver will participate in first practice for the Singapore, Japanese, Korean and Brazilian Grands Prix. He will also drive for them in the end-of-season rookies’ test at Abu Dhabi.

He started the year as a reserve driver for Renault as well as being part of the Renault F1 driver development programme.

D’Ambrosio said:

My ultimate goal has always been to race in Formula 1 and I am delighted to get a step closer. I wish to thank Virgin Racing and Gravity Sport Management for their confidence. I won’t disappoint them.

This drive is a fantastic opportunity and I am looking forward to helping the team in every way I can, as well as gaining experience on four of the most demanding tracks of the F1 calendar.

Looking at the 2011 season, this will be very useful. Also, I will be very proud to wear the Belgian colours on my helmet during these official practice sessions, as it means a lot to me.
Jerome d’Ambrosio

Virgin Racing CEO Graeme Lowdon added:

We have a contract with Timo Glock for another two years and an option on the services of Lucas di Grassi for next year. Both drivers have done an outstanding job for us in our debut season.

We are always looking to progress new racing talent and the team out of which Virgin Racing was born has a long history of this. Jerome is a real racer and very deserving of this opportunity.
Graeme Lowdon

Virgin’s other reserve driver, Luiz Razia, also races in GP2. Former reserve driver Andy Soucek left the team last month, saying he had not had enough chances to drive the team’s F1 car.

The last Belgian to participate in an F1 race weekend was Bas Leinders in practice for Minardi at Interlagos in 2004.

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Keith Collantine
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31 comments on “D’Ambrosio to drive for Virgin on Fridays”

  1. Lots of interesting items here.

    1. Look at Lowdon’s quote again: “We have a contract with Timo Glock for another two years and an option on the services of Lucas di Grassi for next year. Both drivers have done an outstanding job for us in our debut season.”

    He’s basically saying that di Grassi in 2011 is not a sure deal at all. D’Ambrosio’s Friday runs may be an audition for a 2011 race seat.

    2. Interesting that Gravity did a driver deal with Renault when they could’ve done one with Lotus for those Renault engines. It could just be because it’s Virgin that have a vacancy and that Renault have extra drivers, but… could there be something more to this deal?

    1. Yeah, definitely sounds like an audition.

    2. Odd, too, that they sent the press release over at five to midnight on a Sunday. Rather like Cosworth’s Lotus one last week.

      1. Their communications manager came from BAR/Honda/Brawn, so this isn’t a rookie mistake. Perhaps trying to fly under the radar for a 2011 deal?

        The Lotus-Cosworth deal made sense to go out late. Lotus would rather focus on the Renault announcement this weekend.

        1. If the “missing sponsor” Clear PM found (see post below) it might explain, why they did not want to be too informative about it.

          They would want to avoid questions about how much money it should have been and what will they get for Ambrosio instead.

    3. I think this is a very good step from Gravity to get their driver some track time in F1 and have a shot at a F1 drive for next year.

      Good work, although bad news for Di Grassi (and a bit sad for Soucek, he would have loved to have at least one friday to drive thatt car)

    4. Sound_Of_Madness (@)
      20th September 2010, 12:47

      Seriously, is the Lotus-Renault deal announced? Which would mean we could be talking about Lotus-Toyota, if not? Which means that Renault are set to Virgin, and this is why they take d’Ambrosio?

      That said, I don’t see this happening, with Virgin partnering to Williams ala Lotus/Renault.

      1. It’s all done bar the shouting, Lotus-Renault.

        1. Yeah apparently the formal announcement is this week.

  2. One other thing.

    3. The most important thing: whose place will he take on Fridays? I’m guessing di Grassi? I’m very surprised they’re letting Jerome do Korea, when it’s a totally new track and their drivers should get as much mileage as possible.

    1. Or they may alternate the way Force India has with DiResta.

    2. Autosport says he will replace Di Grassi in all 5 sessions.

  3. D’Ambrosio?

    He hasn’t really done a lot in GP2, has he? Methinks Virgin are angling for a Renault engine deal in 2011 or 2012.

    1. Could be. I wonder if Virgin have managed to figure out how Lotus got out of that Cosworth deal. If so, they may decide to pay Cosworth to get out of their deal, then subsidize the Renault deal by having a Gravity man on board.

      Only have 2 teams (Williams and HRT) may seriously hurt Cosworth’s viability, though, especially from 2012 onward.

      1. I do not think Virgin will be wanting to switch to Renault. Virgin already built their own gearbox casing this year, so i suppose they will rather do the complete gearbox withouth XTrack next year.

        The gearbox and hydraulics were the prime concern for Lotus, not the engine. But Renault was eager to deliver the complete package to them.

        Williams build their own gearboxes and hydraulics and are very reliable with it as well as convinced the engine is up to the job.

    2. He was Kobayashi’s teammate last two seasons and beat him both years in the championship rankings. This season he was put against Grosjean for two rounds (Hungary and Belgium) and if it wasn’t for engine failures he would’ve had a victory in the Spa feature race and a 2nd place in the Hungary sprint race. He’s been doing well in an average team (DAMS). Kamui Kobayashi was pretty average in Gp2, but lit up the screens in his F1 outings last season. I hope D’Ambrosio manages to do the same, although it will be hard in that Virgin. Last Belgian to race in a Gp was Philippe Adams for Lotus in 1994 (he did 2 races). I’m Belgian too by the way.

    3. Not done a lot? What did DAMS do? In anycase he did overall beter than Koba and definitely much better than Grosjean!

  4. Although it’s great another rookie gets a drive, it does slightly confuse me.

    Unless one of their drivers (presumably Di Grassi) isn’t planning on staying, or they are making some sort of financial or supply deal which would include D’Ambrosio, (again at Di Grassi’s expense), It just doesn’t make sense to me.

    Glock as I understand is going to have that team built around him, this works for both parties as the team needs a strong driver in his prime desperately (which is what glock represents).

    On the other hand Di Grassi, for a rookie, appears from my perspective to be doing quite well, and is certainly not doing badly enough to warrant them looking for a new rookie to replace him based on performance.

    Seeing as D’Ambrosio was connected with Renault, is it possible Virgin are trying to, like Lotus, gain a Renault supply deal? that would make more sense to me, as I think the view that the Cosworth is somewhat lacking, perhaps is more prevalent than it should be, and, Renault have been openly pushing to supply more teams…

    What is the limit for how many teams a supplier can supply? Four?

  5. “D’Ambrosio will replace Brazilian Lucas di Grassi in all the sessions, driving alongside Timo Glock.”

    1. That’s been taken out of context. Read the preceding paragraph on the Autosport article.

      1. It was ment as a reply to myself, all the sessions means all FP1 sessions of course. What I ment is that he’ll replace Di Grassi on all circuits and not Glock.

        1. But not in Abu Dhabi.

  6. Great news ! (I’m Belgian)
    Too bad he couldn’t get a seat at Renault :(
    But his biggest problem still is to get as much sponsors as he can, Belgium isn’t a big country and since it’s been so long since we had a driver doing a complete season (16 years according too the belgian news) he’ll have a lot of lobbying to do.

    1. Renault were hardly going to replace the still learning Petrov on fridays, nor Kubica who is the guy doing the development on friday.

      And he might be having a realistic chance of landing a drive for next year, something not really likely at Renault.

  7. The last one was Thierry Boutsen. Solid driver, won a couple of GPs for Williams, but didn’t have enougn speed to be a title contender, IMHO.

    Of course, he was still miles better than other Belgian drivers of his time, Eric van de Poele and Bertrand Gachot (although the latter’s citizenship seemed to change based on his needs…)

  8. Bit annoying if you’re di Grassi going to all these circuits knowing you are a rookie who can ill-afford to miss one of the three FP sessions.

    1. Indeed. Di Grassi’s been doing alright I thought, close to Glock’s pace in qualifying on a few occasions and was stuck with the small fuel tank for longer. Not set the world on fire, but not made many mistakes either. When I saw the team in Spain they said he was great with the sponsors and, from what I saw, I think they were right.

  9. I can’t help feeling this is a response in some way to Andy Soucek basically telling Virgin it was a waste of time him being there.

    If D’Ambrosio gets a race seat next year, a distinct possibility if you ask me, perhaps Soucek might be eating humble pie somewhat.

  10. Virgin have removed the Clear sponsorship sometime between Hungary and Italy.


    Clear, it seems, is one of di Grassi’s sponsors.

    1. Well spotted!

    2. That’s interesting. Maybe that is what stirred some of the “two teams have money problems” rumours towards Virgin.

      Maybe Clear was not really paying as agreed and now it might be the reason for DiGrassi to be replaced.

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