Charles Pic is reported to be close to signing for Marussia Virgin Racing for the 2012 season. The 21-year-old Frenchman finished fourth in this year’s GP2 Series, driving for the Barwa Addax team, although at one point in the middle of the year he was leading the championship. Pic is managed by Lagardère Unlimited, the sports and and entertainment division of the Lagardère empire. The business is run by Arnaud Lagardère, the son of the late Jean-Luc Lagardère, who played a major role in building up French motor racing in the late 1960s, as the boss of the Matra company.
Lagardère took on former Grand Prix winner Olivier Panis to act as Pic’s coach and to use Olivier’s many contacts in the F1 world to find him a drive. The relationship between Pic and Panis is a strong one as Pic’s family owns and runs the Groupe Charles André (GCA) conglomerate, which is one of Europe’s leading transport companies, although the business is diversified into many different sectors, notably construction and the hotel trade. The company employs 6,500 people. The success of the company is based on a contract to transport large amounts of Elf products in France. It was this connection that led GCATrans to be the primary sponsor of the Winfield Elf Formula 3 team, when Panis was climbing the ladder to F1. Pic thus has access to considerable funding.
Pic and Panis were in Japan recently, talking to all the teams and we understand that a deal has been offered by Marussia Virgin and there is now negotiation going on. There are other teams interested in Pic, particularly those who will be using Renault engines in the future. Lotus Renault GP is less likely to have Pic because team boss Eric Boullier is rather more keen on Romain Grosjean. The team announced in India that Grosjean will be taking part in Friday morning sessions in Abu Dhabi and Brazil. The team is waiting on Robert Kubica, but may decide to settle for Vitaly Petrov and Grosjean if the tests go well.