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Interview Jules Bianchi
julesbianchi.jpg16/12/2009 - 22.00h The F3 Euroseries champion talk us about his experience since he jump to single seaters...
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16/12/2009 - 22.00h The F3 Euroseries champion talk us about his experience since he jump to single seaters...
 
November 2009
Text and pictures by Gregory Heirman
 
The first time I met Jules Bianchi, he was 14 years old. It was in 2003 at the Spanish circuit of El Vendrell. I was immediately impressed by his driving style. Very aggressive, very precise. The way he braked and positioned his kart at the hairpin was beautiful to watch and already demonstrated something you don’t see every day: determination! Since that day I have kept an eye on him. And little by little, Jules became an obsession for me. Six years later, I went to visit him in Brignoles, his home town. After his Formula Renault title and his crown in the F3 Euroseries, I expected to see a different person. But I was wrong. When I arrived at his father’s karting track, the people sent me to the end of the circuit: “Jules is in the garage with Jeremy, preparing his kart”. A rather small and old garage with just 2 karts, but which “reeks” of motor racing. Inside, Jules was there, just like any normal young man, preparing his own kart. His mate Jeremy was with him. They were getting ready for fight number 389. Jules was just the same as before. Obviously more mature but basically the same. Working, laughing, talking. It was difficult to imagine that I was about to interview the guy I am convinced will one day make a real impact on Formula One.
 
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Photo: On December 2009 Jules made his debut in Formula One with Ferrari.

This year, you have been astonishing, almost always being on top and, beating the record number of victories (since the reverse grid system was introduced). What changed in comparison with 2008?
Last year was only my second year in cars and I lacked experience. I also had no pressure on me and I tried everything, sometimes beyond my limits. This year was different. The title was a clear objective and I had to manage the championship. In 2008 I was fast from the start of the first Friday session. But the other drivers improved during the rest of the weekend, while I didn’t. I’ve worked hard with the engineers to improve that aspect of my qualifying this year. We analysed the data to find out how to improve and succeeded.

What does Nicolas Todt do for you?
Nicolas has been like a second father to me. He has given me almost everything I needed since I signed with him. He takes care of finding the funds we need to compete and has the best F3 and GP2 teams. But Nicolas means much more than that. He takes care of all the different aspects of a racing driver, like the physical preparation, improving my English or the relationship with the Media. He is now a real friend.

Tell us about Jérémy Iglesias?
He was a strong rival when we competed in karting. Now, since I left karting, we have become close friends. We often train together in karting. He is very fast, very precise and very calm. He is also very good in setting up his kart. When we drive here at Brignoles, we always have nice fights! We really get on very well and he is good at helping me when I am down. I am also glad that he had a great year in karting, finishing second in the European Championship.
 
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Photo: Jules Bianchi and Jérm Iglesias fight almost every day on karts.
 
How would you compare Karting with single seater?
In fact there is very little in common between a kart and a single seater. Specifically the braking is very different. Maybe the Formula Renault is less different. When you move across to cars, you start again from scratch. You have to adapt to the car. But once you’ve found the way a single seater works, then your karting experience becomes very important. The race management, overtaking, the fight with other drivers, these are all things you can “re-use” from karting.

Formula Renault vs F3 vs GP2
The Formula Renault looks a little bit like a kart. You have to brake very late and hard. The F3 changes your driving a lot. Because of the increased aerodynamic downforce of a F3, it is much more difficult to find the limit. You need a big dose of confidence to go fast. The GP2 is quite new for me but it is different again. In order to use the power properly you need to get out of the slow curves so as to find a straight line as quickly as possible.

What did you learn from Nico Hülkenberg?
Nico is a very good driver. He is always calm and very well organised. My life was more chaotic last year and I learnt from him in that aspect. Things like looking at my emails every day and answering each one is something I learned from him.

What do you think about the reverse grid?
The idea is not bad but personally I don’t like it. The F3 Euroseries goes to many circuits (like the Brands Hatch club track) where it is impossible to overtake with a F3. If you have a problem in the first race, your second race is also finished. I much prefer the reverse grid system of the World Series for example.
 
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Photo: Jules Bianchi (131)in front of the Scuderia Toro Rosso driver, Jaime Alguersuari (140) at the Junior European Championship in Braga 2004.
 
How is your job with the press going?
It was not my strongest point. I am rather shy and I found it difficult to talk to journalists, especially when it was some one famous. However along with Nicolas (Todt), we have been working on it and I think we have improved already. It is now a question of time and I am confident that it will go better in the future.

What would you like to say about your father?
He was the one originally responsible for putting me in a kart and he managed everything in my younger years in karting. The fantastic thing is that he stepped back at the right time.

And your grand father Mauro?
Mauro has always helped me a lot. He was a great driver and he understands racing very well. He raced a lot of different cars and at the same time he was also an engineer. It is in this area he has given me the strongest support.

Do you still follow karting races?
Yes, when I have the possibility. I try to help my younger brother Tom, who is racing in KF3 this year and I someties go and watch an international race. I’ve been impressed by drivers like Aaro Vainio or Nyck De Vries.

Tell me one of your strengths
Maybe it is to have the capacity to question one’s basic motivation. You can’t just think that your talent is enough to win. You always have to improve something. For example, this year, Valteri Bottas was faster than me in the wet and I worked a lot on that. I studied the data and tried to find solutions. At the end of the year, I was faster than him in the wet!

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Photo: Jérémy and Jules preparing his kart at Brignoles.
 
They talked about Jules

Philippe Bianchi, his father
When Jules began to walk, he always wanted to walk in front of us. We used to tell him “stay alongside us” but it was useless. He would always end up overtaking us. Since then, he has always been like this. He just can’t stand not winning. I remember something that really struck me at the time. Jules was 6 years old and one day we went to a karting circuit and Jules did a few laps. Then along came another boy who was a year and a half older. He set a time a little faster than my son. I congratulated the boy and started to talk to his father. Suddenly, I felt someone knocking on my back. It was Jules. He had already put his helmet on and he said: “Dad, prepare the kart, I want to go back on the track!” A few laps later, he was 8 tenths quicker than the other boy!
My father Mauro (Jules’s grand father) is mad about Jules. I think he identifies himself with him and does all the press review work. With me, he was always a tough father who gave me a strict education and never showed his feelings. But when Jules won the F3 Euroseries title this year, he fell into my arms and started to cry. It was the first time I saw my father crying! You know, we are not rich and Jules has always known that the only thing that could make him reach the top were his hands. Jules is talented  and I am happy to see that someone with talent can still make the difference in motor racing.
 
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Photo: Jules and his father Philippe BIanchi.

Mauro Bianchi, his Grand father
What are of Jules’ qualities?

I think he has all the qualities that my brother Lucien and I had, but without our weaknesses. Jules is not only very quick but he is also very consistent. His race pace is very impressive and his slowest lap is normally a maximum of 5 tenths slower than his fastest. This is something you don’t see very often. He is also very aggressive (in the positive sense); he manages to overtake where nobody else does. His races in Zandvoort and Portimao were outstanding. Jules also has the will to win and is also very, very calm. He is like an ice cube! Nothing disturbs him and his ability to analyse is fantastic. My brother and I didn’t really
have the proper management which we would have needed to succeed. With Nicolas Todt, who is young, but very professional, he has everything he needs to become a great driver.
Do you have some advice to give him?
No, not anymore. I don’t feel capable of doing this. He has understood pretty well everything. The last piece of advice I gave him was two years ago. Jules used to make mistakes during qualifying. He was attacking straight from the word go. I told him: “try to do the first lap without forcing, without wanting to post a time. Then smoothly, increase the tempo." It worked well. Since then, he has almost never failed. But that was the last tip I felt I could give him.
How do you feel now?
I feel extremely happy. Jules has so much talent and seeing him succeed gives me a really great feeling.

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Frédéric Vasseur, ART Team Manager (F3 Euroseries and GP2 Series)
Jules started to drive for us last year, with very little race time (but already a Formula Renault title!). He was extremely quick but needed some more experience. With Nico Hülkenberg as team-mate, it gave him the opportunity to learn from a driver whom I consider extremely professional. This year, he has been outstanding. His strongest point is his capacity to overtake. He has made more overtaking moves than all the other drivers of the championship put together. In addition, he overtakes with a clear safety margin, which is really incredible.


Jérémy Iglesias, one of his strongest rivals in karting, and now his best friend.
Apart from being a nice guy, Jules is a very, very quick driver. But what I admire the most is his determination. He simply always wants to win. It is always a challenge to race a kart against Jules. Sometimes we go for a ride with rental karts with special rules. which we call “bourrasse”. It is a race where anything is allowed. In fact there are no rules anymore. We’ve had some tremendous fights there! We do it for fun but in fact he takes it very seriously and it is a fantastic way to sharpen up your overtaking skills.
 
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Riccardo Ceccarelli, Formula Medicine
How was Jules when you first met?

I first met Jules 3 years ago, when he left karting and was about to begin his career in single seaters. He was only 17 years old at the time. He appeared to be a very intelligent boy but I had the impression that his commitment during some testing in Formula Medicine was not at the right level. For example his results during the Test for evaluating Mental Performance were not impressive. Then we told him: you won’t leave the centre until you are able to score a high result. He replied “ok”, then went in front of the computer and scored his record which really was a very good result but after the test he said “can I go home now?” We understood his potential was very high but at the time he simply had not fully understood the importance of the physical and mental preparation. However, he quickly changed his mind and started to work much harder and is now a very professional and mature driver.
What are Jules’ main qualities?
In my opinion Jules Bianchi has the 4 key factors necessary to become a great driver. Apart from his talent, which is fantastic, he is very intelligent; he is modest and very well managed by Nicolas Todt. These 4 aspects are fundamental if you want to succeed. Nicolas Todt is doing a fantastic job with him. He puts pressure on him only when it is necessary; he helps when needed but he is also very hard at times. Jules knows that he only has one opportunity. This year for example, his aim was to win the championship. Finishing second was not an option. But Jules is strong and manages the pressure very well whilst at the same time he is sure of himself and modest, down to earth if you like it is very important to keep this balance and if he can manage to stay like this in the future, he should achieve great things.
Another of Jules’ qualities is that he doesn’t feel the pressure. He does everything easily, without effort and makes very few mistakes. Jules is a determined young man and has the competition spirit in his blood. He is also very professional: when he believes in something, he works very hard to achieve his objective.
Will Jules become a big F1 star?
I don’t know if he will be a great champion but what I can say is that he has the potential for it. If you ask me to compare him with Fernando Alonso, I would tell you that Jules at 19 is very similar to Fernando when he was 19.

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Nicolas Todt, Jules’ Manager
How was Jules when you started managing him?

Jules was only 17 years old then. He was really just a boy and was still close to his parents. Physically he was not fit enough and was also rather fragile. He lacked self-confidence and was extremely touchy. The potential was there but a lot needed to be done. He still needed a lot of help and was not independent or autonomous enough. This year he’s made a big step forward and has become a man. Hopefully, his parents understood that they had to back away from him. That has been very positive for him.
What are Jules’ strengths?
He is very talented and has an innate sense of competition. His ambition is tremendous. Seeing a driver cry because he has only finished second is something you don’t see very often. For him, only victory counts, which is something very positive, although not always.
How is your relationship with Jules?
Normally a manager, because of his age, feels more like a father for his driver. In my case, it is different; I am younger and feel more like a big brother to Jules. We are now very close and we communicate very well. We talk a lot, in both the good and bad moments. If something doesn’t work properly, then we discuss it. Jules has understood that we are in the same boat and if he fails, we fail together. Jules knows he won’t have repeated opportunities. He hasn’t finished school and this is something he is deeply aware of. If he doesn’t succeed in Formula 1, he won’t have much of a future.
What do you believe Jules should improve?
Jules has the advantage but also the disadvantage of being protected by his managing team. He has all he needs to grow but still needs to learn to do things naturally, without having someone suggesting what to do. It has nothing to do with his driving but more related to issues outside the car.
What is the key point of a good manager?
I would say the ability to listen to different people and collect the information in order to take the right decisions.
 
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