Jules Bianchi tests for Scuderia Ferrari – Click above for high-res image gallery

Ferrari got seriously caught with its pants down last year in Formula One. When Felipe Massa was sidelined with a head injury halfway through the season, the Scuderia found itself without a viable replacement after Michael Schumacher proved unfit to take his place, veteran test driver Luca Badoer failed to rise to the challenge and Giancarlo Fisichella didn't manage to score a single point. But the venerable F1 team is learning from its mistakes with the launch of the Ferrari Driving Academy.

Similar to the programs run by Red Bull and Renault, the Ferrari Driving Academy was established to foster young talent along the ladder to Formula One, starting way down in karting. The program is run by Luca Baldisserri, the strategist who replaced Ross Brawn during his sabbatical and who currently serves as the team's track manager.

The first pupil selected for the program is Jules Bianchi. The young French driver, managed by former Ferrari CEO Jean Todt's son Nicholas, is the scion of a successful racing family: his grandfather Mauro Biachi won the FIA GT Championship three times, and his great uncle won the 24 Hours of Le Mans and competed in nineteen grands prix. Jules himself won the French Formula Renault 2.0 title in 2007 and the F3 Euroseries in 2009, and following his test for Ferrari in December, has scored a podium finish in his debut in the GP2 Asia series. Not a bad start, so we'd better keep our eyes open for Bianchi and future Ferrari Driver Academy pupils making their way up the ladder. Press releases after the jump.

[Source: Ferrari | Image: Mark Thompson/Getty]
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Ferrari Driver Academy
Podium for Bianchi at debut

Maranello, 7 February – Great debut for Jules Bianchi, ain Abu Dhabi for the second round of the GP2 Asia Championship. The Ferrari Driver Academy and ART Grand Prix driver gained a fantastic third place in the first race and came in seventh in the sprint race. In both races Jules was in great form with many overtaking manoeuvres, showing ability and speed.

"I'm very happy about my place on the podium at my GP2 debut," Jules said. "I came here to learn, because my objective is to win the major series: there are many things I have to understand about these cars, for example the start and the pit stop. Obviously a result like today's is very encouraging."


Ferrari Driver Academy

Maranello, 18 December 2009 - Scuderia Ferrari has set up a new initiative, known as the "Ferrari Driver Academy," created to find and support talented young racing drivers from around the world, with the eventual aim of getting them into the Formula 1 arena.

The programme is based on a different philosophy to other schemes of this type: a group of young drivers will be selected and then supported as they progress, not just in terms of their racing activity, but also focussing on their personal and professional development. The project, run by Luca Baldisserri, will evolve gradually, over a period of several years, starting with kart racing and continuing through the intermediate formulae, before finally reaching the goal of Formula 1. Playing an important part in this initiative will be the ACI-CSAI, which will collaborate on the programme through the Federation's race school at Vallelunga.

"This programme has a very clear goal: to help youngsters develop to the point where, one day, they could fly the Ferrari flag in the Formula 1 World Championship," said Stefano Domenicali. "We plan to take an original approach, covering every angle with them, so that they are as well prepared as possible to tackle every aspect of modern day motor sport."

The first youngster to be selected for this programme is Jules Bianchi, who won this year's Drivers' and Teams' titles in the Formula 3 Euroseries and made his debut at the wheel of an F60 in the recent Jerez test session.

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