Pic and Marussia Virgin

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.

35 thoughts on “Pic and Marussia Virgin

  1. Yes, with money you can buy everything. We will miss a lot of talents for this reason and in the long term it will destroy the sport. Money is more important than talent these days. The only way for talented people to come in F1 is through Red Bull. Red Bull does what Marlboro did in the 80’s and early 90’s.

    In the mean time, Arnaud Lagardère is under pressure from his shareholders for his childish behaviour with his Belgian girlfriend, 30 years younger than him.

  2. Thanks Joe, interesting the part about GCATrans. Pic is definitively the French driver having the biggest funding.

    Signing as test driver or race driver for 2012 with Marussia Virgin Racing ?

  3. I guess Marussia’s reserve driver, F3.5 championhip winner Robert Wickens just doesn’t have the money that Pic has. It’s a shame talent means nothing.

  4. I take it then that Senna’s chances of being retained by Renault are diminishing? I’m finding it hard to judge how good a job both Senna and Petrov are doing.

    The problem at the moment is that there seems to be a gap between the drivers that have been about for ages and relative newcomers, with a couple of journeymen also hanging about the paddock. Too many potentially front row drivers are being sidelined after brief carriers for pay drivers though I understand why the smaller teams need to do this.

    I think Renaults two best bets to fill in for Kubica if he can’t return in 2012 would be either Glock or Sutil, but with Glock undercontract at Marrusia and Sutil’s moment of madness in Shanghi, both seem highly unlikely.

  5. Which driver do you think Pic might replace? Glock is more experienced but d’Ambrosio is listed above him in the standings so I guess he has been finishing higher.

  6. Im guessing that if Panis was in Japan ‘looking for a drive’ for Pic, then it has to be a race seat, right Joe? If thats the case, its a shame for D’Ambrosio who I thought has performed well enough given the car he’s in, and compare him to some other drivers in better cars it looks a bit of a better picture for him. But as the BBC Forum talked about after the India GP, money talks & talent counts only a little bit these days.

  7. So what is happening to Senna? Could you extrapolate Joe?

    In Spa he steped into the car and in quali was great with one mistake in the race but good pace from following the live timing.

    Monza similiar quali to Petrov but did well in the race comparitively.

    Singapore ok

    Japan down hill

    Korea down more

    India… quali horrible but finishing just behind experienced teammate good.

    What is happening from your point of view? Why is someone like Senna doing rather well for someone stepping in but now with some experience doig worse off?
    Boullier even said that after Spa quali the team were motivated because of Senna’s quali result!

  8. Pic seems to be alright, but really Virgin’s second seat is just a revolving door, isn’t it? Equally di Grassi was OK and d’Ambrosio is OK, but they were never going to do more than a season. Money beating talent is nothing new in F1, and probably not worth moaning about, but you have to wonder why sponsors so consistently support either mediocre drivers or waste their money paying for their drivers to fill waste of time seats.

  9. I was interested in Nico Hulkenberg’s comments re pay drivers & seat availability on the BBC F1 Forum – F1 is supposed to be the pinnacle of motorsport so the best drivers in the world should be occupying the seats. When even recent world-title winning teams are taking pay drivers (however talented) then there needs to be a realisation that something is seriously wrong with the financial model of F1 for (most) teams, circuits & fans. Yes pay drivers have always been a part of F1 but traditionally only a seat towards the back end of the grid or a third car in a satellite squad was for sale as opposed to the majority of the grid.

    I also simply do not understand the logic of paying tens of millions of dollars for a seat in F1 for one year, only to be ejected in 12 months’ time when the next walking cash machine comes along. What do you do then? Mid-grid teams have no slots as they also want pay drivers, the three big teams operate a seemingly closed graduate scheme for new drivers and the strugglers will want another injection of $20-25 million. It just seems crazy…

  10. Every time I read comments sort of slagging off “pay drivers” – well, I understand but also remember that very often competitive drivers need to bring cash in order to get that first start. Joe probably can cite others, but the one that sticks in my mind is Niki Lauda. One difference was that he took bank loans (rather creatively too iirc) rather than having a generous sponsor. I enjoyed his book a lot.

    I’m also reminded, in these discussions, of the varying fates of the “mid and lower-field teams”. We were talking about the ’76 Long Beach GP the other day and I vividly remember the shock of seeing Jackie Ickx (who I think incredible) trundling around at the back in a (soap-sponsored iirc) Ensign. Another also-ran was the Williams team. Which we know managed to improve quite a bit. Big Macs had their moments of doubt and pain too before joining with Project4.

    I’m enjoying the driver retrospectives in GP+. Perhaps some team retrospectives would be a good thing too.

    About Innes Ireland – I suppose the old “Scotsman, named Ireland, born in England and lives in Wales” is too well worn for the pages of GP+? 🙂 My clearest recollection of Ireland in a car was Silverstone 1961 because that helmet and the green Lotus simply looked so good. I just dug out the programme from the event and checked my lap chart. I have next to no recollection of the other Lotus driver that day. Could have been that the dark blue helmet didn’t stand out, but the lap chart shows Jim Clark finishing way ahead of Innes. Those impressions were radically changed the next spring… Can my memory be right? Three non-championship races in the UK! – Aintree (Clark won), Goodwood (Moss crashed), Silverstone (Clark left the field behind but fluffed Woodcote and Hill won). I think there was also a N-C race in Pau too?

  11. So what’s happening with Kubica? Wasn’t he planning to try driving again some time in mid-October? I assume that didn’t happen or I would have read about it here. And since you say that Renault may be considering Grosjean and Petrov that would seem to imply that Kubica is still a question mark as far as driving in the near future.

  12. Whie Pic has money and a fair dose of talent, it seems strange to me Marussia would not want a return on their investment in Wickens, seeing as they sponsored him through last year in WSR.

    Jerom’s been doing better than Di Grassi last year as we’ve seen little to no rookie mistakes from Jerome, he’s proven himself to be a very solid pair of hands.

    However he hasn’t really made a big impression on Glock either, which he really should be doing if he wants to keep that seat for next year..than and find some big sponsors, which as a Belgian he can probably forget to compete vs the Pic money.

  13. Joe – you’ve been very vocal about VJ (perhaps we should call him JV – cause everything is a joint venture, rather than owned outright these days!). But what about Dicky Branson? His time in F1 has been a spectacular failure, but like always he comes out clean?

    1. Adrian Newey,

      I disagree about Branson. Virgin has garnered plenty of publicity for very little money (others have been paying). The level of success is not much difference to the other new teams, so the impression is that it is hard for any new team, so no bad reflection on Branson. Thus it is fair to say that Branson must be cleverer than Mallya. And JV is the wrong nickname for VJ.. A better name would be BO – for “Bought Out”. It is just a matter of time before they confirm it.

  14. Before everyone goes slagging off Charles Pic as a pay driver – he pretty much deserves a chance on talent alone (as do many drivers; Grosjean, Bianchi, Wickens etc.). In fact, there are many parallels between Pic and Sergio Perez, another talented driver with some good backing too. People aren’t really calling him a pay driver now are they???

    In fact, Pic has almost followed Perez exactly during the last couple of years. Perez made his GP2 debut with Arden in 2009 before moving onto Addax for 2010. Pic joined GP2 with Arden in 2010, before himself moving onto Addax to replace Perez. Also, he very nearly finished runner-up in GP2 this year like Perez did in ’10, only missing out after some opening lap contact in the very last race.

    Wickens certainly deserves a drive, but so does Pic. As long as one of them gets the Marussia seat I will be happy. D’Ambrosio on the other hand did certainly not deserve a drive on his GP2 performances, even if he has done a solid job this year. He’s not race winning material. Pic, like Perez, could just be.

  15. I don’t think Virgin should be permitted to change their name until they score their first championship points, because we all know that you are just a Virgin until you score.

  16. Lets not be too hard on the smaller team bosses, I’m sure they would all like to take drivers purely on merit, but the teams survival has to come first. The fact is these teams can’t get the likes of Alonso or Vettel so any driver they get is always going to be not the best out there, they have to take a pragmatic view of the drivers available to them. Realisticly the difference between the best and worst driveres available is very small, and not going to make up the difference in performance between say a HRT and a Williams, or a Williams and a Sauber. All rookie drivers no matter how talented will take time to get used to F1, real talent will always make it, I don’t think there is another Lewis or Jenson out there who can’t get into F1 due to a lack of budget. This might happen to the odd Massa or Rosberg level driver, but so what?

  17. There has been noise about “getting a Frenchman into F1” from a number of people, often Boullier with a driver he just happens to manage, but also talk of Renault engines somehow exerting influence for the same end.

    What is the rumour, how much are they going to pay their Engine customers to put one of their own in a seat ?

    How can this be justified, a public company acting on Nationalistic grounds ?

    As Renault also own Romanian and Korean car companies, are they pressing equally hard to place Romanians and Koreans in F1 ?

  18. Turning things around maybe the reason there are so many apparent ‘pay drivers’ waiting for seats in F1 is not because of F1 itself but because of the need for all drivers in feeder series to bring substantial budget.

    By the time anyone gets near to an F1 seat they are likely to have had to raise finance for multiple championship campaigns in the lower ranks.

    Once a guy turns up at an F1 team with a budget he’s not going to be turned away just BECAUSE he has a budget. They’ll take the money if it’s there.

    The state of the driver market just shows that in F1’s supply demand equation the scarce resource is the good car, not the good driver.

  19. “Charles Pic is reported to be close to signing for Marussia Virgin Racing for the 2012 season”

    Hi Joe,

    Do you know if this ‘close signing’ is for a race seat or a role doing Friday (FP1 and / or FP2) testing?

    Keep up the great work!


  20. I don’t know why these drivers like Pic with loads of cash simply don’t hold out for better options or go to another series like DTM. If I’m in GP2 and the only seats available in F1 are teams that are historically a revolving door, then why waste your one shot in a car that’s going to be lapped 3-4 times during a race? Why not wait for a chance at a team like Sauber? I don’t know why rookie drivers continue to subsidize garbage teams. I would expect more of a pushback from the entry level driver market ( 2 year deals with buy-out clauses for early termination). One year to evaluate rookie talent in any sport is way too short. If I was Pic, I’d tell Virgin to go find someone else to finish P22.

    1. Jungle Juice,

      Odd though it may seem, young drivers want to be F1 stars. Being a DTM star is not quite the same thing…

  21. Virgin #2 seat does not seem to be that great at all. It has ruined Di Grassi’s F1 career, and D’Ambrosio’s seems to be going through the same path.

    In fact, I get really amazed to see a driver like Glock bound to such a team

  22. Henry D,

    I understand that but at the same time it’s a massive gamble with incredibly low odds of success at a team like Virgin. Just seems like you could make a career out of motor sport in another formula rather than cashing in the lot at a place like Virgin. I just feel like he could do better at another team. Virgin isn’t the place to build your F1 career. If it really is about getting a chance to jump into “The Show” then why didn’t Hulkenberg take a seat at HRT this year??? It can take you years to build up your name to get to F1 and it can take you less than a year to destroy everything you’ve worked for.

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