Rising British star James Calado joins Force India as third driver
GP2 race winner to get straight down to work in Monza P1
By James Galloway and William Esler
Last Updated: 02/09/13 4:44pm
The 24-year-old Briton had been thought to be thought on the brink of formalising his relationship with the Silverstone-based team after impressing on his F1 test debut in the VJM06 at the Silverstone Young Driver Test in July.
And fresh from the third victory of his GP2 career in the Sprint Race at Spa two weeks ago, Force India have now confirmed Calado in the back-up role to their two race drivers, with the rising star to make an immediate GP weekend debut for the team in Practice One at Monza on Friday.
"I'm pleased to confirm that we've signed James as our third driver," said Force India Team Principal Vijay Mallya.
"We worked with him during the Silverstone test and he impressed everyone with his speed and consistency. We've always tried to support young drivers and this is a great opportunity for James to gain some valuable experience of driving during Formula 1 race events."
Although Monza is the only P1 session Calado has been confirmed in for now, Mallya added that further opportunities would follow over the season's subsequent seven flyaway rounds.
"James will take part in the opening free practice session on Friday. He will also run in practice at several other races this year," the Indian added.
"It's always useful to get another driver's feedback on the car and it will help us evaluate James."
Force India have a successful history of nurturing third drivers to F1 race seats via regular Friday practice outings over recent years, with current driver Paul Di Resta and ex-driver Nico Hulkenberg both landing drives with the team after 12 months in reserve roles.
Jules Bianchi competed in nine P1 sessions last season before graduating to a race seat at Marussia.
Who is James Calado?
James Calado's path to F1 started in 1999 when he started karting at Cadet level, winning the British title in 2001. The Worcestershire-born driver continued to progress through the karting ranks and won the KF2 European title in 2005 ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne.
With backing from the Racing Steps Foundation - which continues to support his career - Calado stepped up to single-seater racing in 2008 and joined Fortec in the Formula Renault UK Championship. He finished seventh in the standings with one win and two poles from his twenty outings. That November he contested the British and Portuguese Winter Series and dominated both championships to take the titles. The British driver remained in the domestic two-litre Renault championship in 2009 and finished second in the standings after taking eight victories.
2010 saw a new championship and a new team for Calado as he graduated to British F3 and moved to Carlin alongside former karting rival Vergne. The Englishman took five victories on his way to second in the Drivers' Championship, albeit 99 points behind his French team-mate, as Trevor Carlin's squad proved to once again be the dominant outfit.
Calado joined the F1 support bill in 2011 when he stepped up to GP3 with ART Grand Prix finishing second in the standings behind team-mate, and current Williams F1 driver, Valtteri Bottas. His sole victory came in the reverse grid race in Valencia.
The British driver replaced Jules Bianchi in ART's GP2 outfit in 2012 and impressed immediately with victory from pole in the reverse grid race on the opening weekend of the season. A poor strategy call robbed him of another win in Valencia - a result which would have seen him finish ahead of team-mate, and now Sauber F1 driver, Esteban Gutierrez in the final standings.
Calado headed into the 2013 GP2 season as the title favourite, but a disappointing start to the season yielded only one podium from nine races - something he attributed to chassis damage suffered in a crash in the Malaysian Sprint Race which had gone undetected. However, a podium at Silverstone followed by two more in Germany a week later reignited his campaign. After another strong outing in Belgium, he currently sits fifth in the Drivers' Championship, 24 points behind leader Stefano Coletti.