British driver Sam Bird has been confirmed at front-runners ART for the full GP2 season in 2010, building on the experience he is gaining with the team in the Asia series this winter.
A BRDC Rising Star and occasional Williams F1 tester, Bird took part in the recent pair of GP2 tests at Yas Marina and Paul Ricard, setting impressive times, and also earned a podium at the Macau Grand Prix.
He will be partnering rising star Jules Bianchi at ART, who beat him this year in F3 Euroseries and who is testing for the Ferrari F1 team at Jerez this week.
But Bird, who performed strongly in F3 this year without actually winning a race, will have to be careful of ART’s apparent policy of favouring one driver to the exclusion of the other.
The team’s lead drivers since 2005 have included current or future F1 stars Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Hulkenberg – while its second drivers have often failed to thrive until they’ve escaped from ART.
Despite that, Bird said: “I’m obviously very pleased to be joining ART Grand Prix. Their success speaks for itself and having spent quite a bit of time with the team over the past couple of months, I can say that they are a brilliant group of people.
“Driving for ART is a dream for any single-seater driver and I would like to thank Frederic Vasseur, in particular, for handing me this opportunity.”
Vasseur, the team’s chief executive, added: “I am delighted that Sam is joining us for the entire GP2 season. I have followed him closely for several years and always felt that circumstances had not always enabled him to express what I believe is a great talent.
“When we gave him the chance to prove himself in Abu Dhabi, he took the opportunity and impressed us. At the Paul Ricard test, with our Main Series car, again, he was consistently quick and remained a front-runner with other teams in the subsequent days.
“I think that Jules and Sam make a very competitive and exciting line-up. They are both rookies, but the top drivers have the ability to make a big impact immediately, as we have seen in the past. I am confident that Sam will have a very good season with us and I expect success for him in GP2 and beyond.”