Jean Alesi returns to Fiorano – Click above for high-res image gallery
If you checked out the images we posted of Felipe Massa's return to Maranello, you may have spotted the returning Brazilian driver chatting with one Jean Alesi and wondered what he was doing there.
The French driver raced for the Scuderia from 1991 through 1995, scoring a handful of podiums and a solitary grand prix victory in Montreal. Along with longtime team-mate Gerhard Berger, Alesi switched places with Michael Schumacher to Benetton-Renault in 1996, then bounced between a few other teams before retiring from Formula One at the end of 2001. Since then he's been competing in DTM and then headlined the new Speedcar Series.
With the ill-fated Asian stock car series now deceased, however, the racing world has been wondering what the retired F1 driver would try his hand at next, and on Tuesday they got their hint when Alesi showed up at Fiorano to test the Ferrari F430 GT2. Alesi's slated to race for AF Corse, the team run by Amato Ferrari, who shares strong ties with both Maranello and Maserati but no direct familial relation despite the common name.
AF Corse is the reigning two-time champion in the FIA GT series, but is reportedly preparing to tackle the European Le Mans Series, including its headline event, next year. The test session apparently exceeded expectations, paving the way for the 45-year-old driver to race Ferraris once again, for the first time in fourteen years, next season. Details in the press release after the jump and images in the high-res gallery below.
An appreciated comeback
Maranello, 13 October 2009 – Thanks to AF Corse's availability this morning Jean Alesi was back behind the wheel of a Ferrari on the Fiorano circuit. It was a proper test, keeping the promise made to the French driver on the occasion of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and evaluating, through the direct contact with the car, a possible employment in the international Gran Turismo Championships in the near future. After the test, which ended earlier than planned and after 65 laps, Alesi was enthusiastic: "I feel as if I was young again, like at the start of my career, when I still had to demonstrate my ability. It was an unbelievable emotion to get back on the track and I immediately gained confidence with the car, really phenomenal!" 1995 - Alesi's last season as an official driver of the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro in Formula 1 - didn't seem so long ago, when he got behind the wheel of the F430 GT2 made available by Amato Ferrari's AF Corse. Ferrari, impressed by Alesi, who back then was immediately able to drive the same lap times as the best drivers in his category, said: "We didn't need to use a slot in the afternoon's programme thanks to Jean's exceptional performance in a test, where we just had to adjust the driver's position in the car and refuel; no mechanical modifications were necessary. That's why we are extremely optimistic as far as a possible involvement of Jean in our 2010 programme is concerned."