It was a moment when the F1 world held its breath as Kimi Raikkonen lost control of his Ferrari returning to the track in the opening corners of the British Grand Prix.
The Finn was subject to a 47-G impact with an unprotected metal barrier which sent him and his car careering back across the circuit.
Only Felipe Massa’s quick thinking and a lot of luck saved what could have a truly horrifying head on collision but as a consequence of Raikkonen’s shunt the 2007 champion, who underwent back surgery late last year, was forced to miss this week’s third in-season test at Silverstone.
Now Ferrari have several reserve drivers and a rather handy race driver in Fernando Alonso who could have taken the Finn’s place but instead the driver currently in the F14-T, as I write this, is Marussia’s Jules Bianchi.
For those who don’t know, Bianchi is and remains part of Ferrari’s young driver program, it is much of the reason why the back of the grid team uses the Italian marque’s engines, and his appearance back behind the wheel of a Prancing Horse comes after several notable performances.
The Frenchman scored Marussia’s first ever F1 points in Monaco and in the damp conditions in qualifying at Silverstone put the MR03 12th on the grid, beating both Ferraris. Also in his two years with the team he has simply outclassed his team-mate Max Chilton and been the fastest driver in the slower teams on nearly every occasion.
Next Ferrari driver?
His day behind the wheel of a scarlet Ferrari also comes amid a time the most famous team on the F1 grid reconsiders how it is run and who it employs.
Just last week Raikkonen himself said he would probably retire after his current contract ends at the end of next year and it is somewhat ironic that his crash led to Bianchi getting what can only be perceived as an early audition for a future Ferrari drive. Most had got Nico Hulkenberg tagged as the next driver to move to Maranello. Indeed the German, who currently drives for Force India, only had to sign on the dotted line before Raikkonen was installed as Felipe Massa’s replacement.
But with Bianchi putting in so many strong performances in a team that is still some way of the main midfield pack, albeit nearly on par with fellow Ferrari customers Sauber, and the feeling for greater risks to be taken at the Italian team could it be that the Frenchman is now top of Luca di Montezemolo’s future driver list.
Then there comes the questions still dangling over Fernando Alonso’s future with the team, though speculation has dampened down, the obvious frustration the Spaniard must have after five disappointing years at Ferrari may mean his time with the team ends before his contract ends after 2016.
Could it really be that as Marco Mattiacci looks to raise the sinking ship that Ferrari have become that a new approach with new engineers could also see two new faces sat in the cockpit? We have always assumed Bianchi was destined for Ferrari, the question was always when did the team feel he was ready?
Now though, as the team look to rekindle their former glory days, are they considering getting him in as soon as possible to potentially be the man to lead the rebirth of the Prancing Horse? Based on the test you might have to say yes.
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