By Berthold Bouman
The Russian-Anglo Marussia team is also looking forward to the race in Monaco this weekend, they have had a strong season start, as they managed to outpace their direct rival Caterham. The Monaco Grand Prix is always special, and rookie Jules Bianchi is looking forward to what he considers to be his home Grand Prix.
John Booth: It’s a track which really showcases a driver’s ability
Team Principal John Booth faces a tough challenge this season, but the Monaco Grand Prix is always something special. “Racing around the tight and twisty streets is an unparalleled experience for any driver and Jules [Bianchi] and Max [Chilton] are both very excited and looking to the race weekend with confidence after spending time in the simulator,” he said.
Quizzed about this weekend’s challenges he commented, “It’s a track which really showcases a driver’s ability so we look forward to seeing more of the obvious potential of both of our drivers shining through again. Monaco will not be without its challenges I’m sure and there will be the same heavy focus on tyre management. We do have a few minor developments however, which we hope will keep us moving in the right direction.”
Team Principal John Booth – Photo: Marussia F1
Max Chilton: I hope we can put on a good show
Driver Max Chilton is looking forward to his first race in a Formula One car on the streets of Monte Carlo this weekend, “It’s shaping up to be quite a weekend so I hope we can put on a good show for the benefit of all the partners and guests who are making the trip there.”
“It’s a fascinating track and everything can turn on a knife-edge because of factors like the close proximity of the barriers and the importance of qualifying ahead of our immediate competitors,” the Briton added.
About the recent car developments he commented, “Although this is a very different challenge to Spain, I hope we can carry through some of the benefits we saw from the new developments last time out and have a better showing in Monaco.”
Home GP for Jules Bianchi – Photo: Marussia F1
Jules Bianchi: This season is a dream come true
Frenchman Jules Bianchi feels Monaco is his home Grand Prix and he said ahead of the race, “When I was nine or ten years old and used to go to watch the Monaco Grand Prix, I could never have imagined that one day I would be racing here myself. So much of this season is a dream come true but next weekend is certainly one of the highlights for me. It’s a unique race, a fantastic experience on and off the track and the atmosphere is very special.”
He too, is hoping the Barcelona updates will help the team to make more progress, and Bianchi said, “I would like to think that we can have a strong weekend after some positive signs with the new upgrade in Spain. We were not able to make the best of it on race day there but I hope for better things in Monaco.”
Marussia are now tenth in the Constructors’ Championship, and Bianchi and Chilton are 19th and 22nd respectively in the Drivers’ Championship.
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By Berthold Bouman
Marussia is also heading to Barcelona for round five of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Spanish Grand Prix at the Circuit de Catalunya. Like all other teams, Marussia will also bring an updated package to Barcelona, and are hoping to improve their race pace.
John Booth: We head into Europe feeling refreshed and prepared
Marussia Team Principal John Booth did enjoy the long three-week break, and said, “We head into Europe feeling refreshed and prepared for the start of the next phase of races. It was a whirlwind start to the season for us in some ways and the past few weeks have allowed the drivers in particular to draw a little more breath.”
About the first race on European soil Booth commented, “Barcelona is always an interesting race as it provides a very good barometer of car performance up and down the grid and also the benefit of the new upgrades most teams will bring to their cars.”
Jules Bianchi – Photo: Marussia F1
Marussia will also test some new parts at Barcelona, and Booth said, “Having tested here over two weeks pre-season, we’ll be taking the opportunity to use that baseline data to further analyse our progress to date, conducting some back to back work with our Bahrain package prior to fielding our new developments for this race.”
Jules Bianchi: The team have spent a lot of time analysing our progress
Marussia driver Jules Bianchi has been the surprise of the season so far, and he too, is looking forward to race on familiar grounds again. About his Formula One debut he said, “Although my first four races have been quite positive — and a nice adventure for me personally — as a driver in my debut season it is good to be heading into the start of the European season.”
The Frenchman is confident ahead of the race in Spain and commented, “The team have spent a lot of time analysing our progress so it will be good to verify our findings with the package so far and of course to explore our new developments for Spain. I’m looking forward to getting busy in the car again.”
Max Chilton – Photo: Marussia F1
Max Chilton: We’ve learned a lot in the first four races
Max Chilton was clear about the progress the team has made, “We’ve learned a lot in the first four races and quite a lot since, with the technical team having been hard at it in the break. What we bring to the Circuit de Catalunya is the product of four races of evaluation coupled with the next step in our ongoing development path, so it will be interesting to see how we can progress from Bahrain.”
About the circuit the Briton said, “On a personal level this is a track I enjoy and have raced at plenty of times, and that will also be useful as we work through a busy evaluation programme on Friday in particular.”
Marussia are currently 10th in the Constructors’ Championship, Bianchi is 19th, and Chilton 22nd in the Drivers’ Championship.
• Red Bull Spanish GP Preview
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By Berthold Bouman
Marussia is also ready for round three of the 2013 FIA Formula One World Championship, the Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit. This weekend’s Grand Prix will be the tenth race on the Shanghai track, a real drivers track similar to Sepang.
John Booth: We will be running some new suspension parts
Marussia’s Team Principal John Booth is satisfied with the start of the season and said, “After such a positive start to the season, I think we are all keen to get back to the racing.”
But there won’t be many major updates available for the race in China and Booth commented, “The cars were freighted directly to China, so while we would not call the upgrades we have for this race comprehensive, they are still significant. We will be running some new suspension parts that we proved out in testing but delayed until we had some further race distance experience with the MR02. We also have some new front and rear brake ducts.”
And he added, “The bigger push will come for Europe, but for now it’s good to be bringing new incremental updates to the car to maintain our positive trajectory. The drivers have spent some time in the simulator during the break and generally they are feeling much better prepared for the next phase of the season.”
Max Chilton – Photo: Marussia F1
Max Chilton: Shanghai a nice challenge with some interesting features
Briton Max Chilton enjoyed the three-week break, but can’t wait to race again. “The break since Malaysia has been really beneficial on the one hand because it has given us the chance to reflect on the first two races and what we need to do to keep on making progress. On the other hand, off the back of the first two races of my Formula One career, it has also felt a bit like an eternity and I can’t wait to head to China now and get back to racing!”
He has never raced on the circuit and Chilton has prepared himself on the simulator, “I only have my experience of watching the races there in the past and my recent simulator work to go by, but it looks like a nice challenge with some interesting features. Shanghai itself will also be a new experience. We have a few updates to the car; so far the developments we have brought have worked well and I’m sure we can keep moving in a positive direction.”
Jules Bianchi – Photo: Marussia F1
Jules Bianchi: It’s all about maintaining the momentum now
Frenchman Jules Bianchi has been the surprise of the season, he clearly outperformed his team colleague, and he too, can’t wait to get behind the wheel of his car again. “Things had started out so well that it was almost a shame to have to stop for a few weeks,” Bianchi said.
“I was able to reflect on what has been a bit of a whirlwind, but a very positive start to my first season of Formula One nonetheless. I am quite happy with the progress so far. It’s all about maintaining the momentum now, so it is good to know that we head into the next race with some new developments which should carry us forward again.”
Asked about his aims for this weekend he said, “The target for this race is to keep closing on the guys ahead and be challenging them consistently, lap for lap.”
Marussia is currently tenth in the Constructors’ Championship, while Bianchi and Chilton are 17th and 20th respectively in the Drivers’ Championship.
• Red Bull Chinese GP Preview
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By Berthold Bouman
Marussia have also travelled to Sepang for the second round of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the Malaysian Grand Prix. The Marussia MR02 made a promising debut in Australia, and the Anglo-Russian team is looking to build on the results of Melbourne.
John Booth: No significant changes to the car
Team Principal John Booth was satisfied with the new MR02 and said, “The out-of-the-box reliability and performance of the MR02 has been very pleasing to see, especially as the car is quite a significant evolution of the MR01 and we have had to make the necessary modifications to accommodate KERS for this season.”
He’s hoping to build on the Melbourne success, “Up and down the field, every team will be aiming to make progress and keep developing their package, so we need to maintain our current momentum.”
But there won’t be any car updates said Booth, “Given the tight turnaround between these two races, there won’t be any significant changes to the car. Instead, we’ll be able to look at optimising the set-up for this circuit and gathering more data to send back home in real-time, so our technical team can start working on the next batch of developments for rounds three and four.”
Marussia are hoping to maintain momentum – Photo: Marussia F1
Max Chilton: We are close to the mid-field
Max Chilton made his Grand Prix debut last weekend, and he’s hungry for more action. “It’s time to start thinking about round two in Malaysia this weekend and what we can do to build [on] the momentum. We have shown how close we are to the midfield, so getting within striking distance of that pack is our next target and that is what I’m focusing on,” said the Briton.
And he added, “After such a positive start to the season and an obviously competitive car, I can’t wait for the next opportunity to drive it this weekend.”
Jules Bianchi: Prepared for Sepang on simulator
Also Jules Bianchi made his Grand Prix debut last weekend, and he too is already looking forward to the second race on the calendar. About his debut the Frenchman commented, “Although my debut went well, there are some areas that I need to work on and where I can improve — as you would expect — so this race we will have a little more time and experience to think about what we need to do to keep pushing forward.”
The conditions in Malaysia will be difficult, but Bianchi thinks he’s well-prepared for his next challenge, “This week I have had the chance to think everything through — what I have learned and where I need to go from here. I had a good debrief with my engineering team and I feel very comfortable, so now I start to think about Malaysia. I’ve done some work in the simulator and I think Sepang is a circuit I’m going to enjoy. I know the challenge it brings in terms of the heat and humidity, so I’m prepared for that.”
• Red Bull Malaysian GP Preview
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By Berthold Bouman
Marussia also attracted two new drivers for 2013, Max Chilton replaces Charles Pic, whilst Jules Bianchi takes over the place of Luiz Razia, who was ousted after his sponsor deals fell through. During testing Marussia have shown they might be quicker than archenemy Caterham, which is an exciting prospect ahead of the Australian Grand Prix.
Team Principal John Booth: We are in our best shape ever
Marussia’s Team Principal John Booth is despite the financial troubles the team encountered optimistic ahead of the 2013 season. “In many ways we are in our best shape ever as a team and everyone is thriving on that and looking forward to what we hope will be a positive 19-race journey ahead. Our new package has performed well in pre-season testing, with encouraging signs in terms of performance and reliability.” he declared.
“But,” he said, “It is still too early to fully appreciate the progress we have made for 2013, as that wide picture has a habit of revealing itself in Melbourne, but we make the long journey there this weekend feeling confident in our direction.”
Marussia practicing pit stops at Barcelona – Photo: Marussia F1
Max Chilton: I feel totally prepared
Chilton is yet another rookie who can’t wait to get behind the wheel at the opening race of the season. “The past few weeks of pre-season testing have flown by, but I’ve spent a lot of time in the car working on so many different things that I feel totally prepared for what lies ahead now,” said the Briton.
About winter testing he remarked, “We gathered a lot of information with the MR02 in Jerez and Barcelona and at every stage it has been possible to see the benefit of all that learning and development. I hope to continue that in the opening races.”
“I’m looking forward to the experience of Albert Park and the rest of the city, as I’ve heard so many great things about the place and the atmosphere. It’s going to be quite a weekend,” he predicted.
Jules Bianchi: Nice and positive vibe about the team
The past few weeks have been exciting to say the least for Frenchman Jules Bianchi, who was test driver for Force India. “So much has happened over the past couple of weeks that it’s difficult to get my head around the fact that I am about to begin my Formula One racing career in Melbourne next weekend. I guess excitement is the only emotion I’ve had time to experience, there has been so much to do and so many people to meet,” he said.
Bianchi, who’s the grandnephew of 1960s Formula One driver Lucien Bianci, has a good feeling ahead of the season, “Things happen for a reason and I feel confident that we are going to have a very positive season together. There is a nice and positive vibe about the team and good signs from the work that has been done with the MR02.”
He’s confident the Marussia MR02 is a great car and said, “I felt very comfortable based on my previous experiences with other F1 cars I have driven, so I’m excited to see what we can achieve in the first few races.”
• Red Bull Australian GP Preview
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By Berthold Bouman
In a statement issued today, Marussia have confirmed that they have terminated Luiz Razia’s contract, and appointed Jules Bianchi, who was in contention for a race seat at Force India, as second driver to race alongside Briton Max Chilton this season.
Not an entirely unexpected move, as Razia reportedly failed to get the money promised by his sponsors, and Marussia had no other option than to replace him. Bianchi will start testing with immediate effect, and will be driving the Marussia MR02 during the last two test days at Barcelona this weekend.
Team Principal John Booth said, “Jules is a proven talent who is highly regarded within the Paddock. He has been on a clear trajectory towards Formula One and has achieved some impressive performances through the various feeder formulae, notably his 2012 season in Formula Renault 3.5 when he was also reserve driver for Force India.”
About terminating Razia’s contract Booth remarked, “We have found ourselves in a situation where we have had to terminate our contract with Luiz Razia. Having made clear the basis on which we must operate in 2013, and given the steps we had taken to put that new structure in place, we had no alternative but to remain true to the principles which we had identified as being key to securing our long-term future.”
Bianchi will start testing tomorrow and Booth said, “Jules can now look forward to a very swift initiation into the team over the course of the next two days here in Barcelona, when he is expected to run for one and a half days to afford both our drivers some dry running with the latest aero specification.”
Bianchi, who lost the race for a seat at Force India, was thrilled with this new chance, “Racing in Formula One this season has been my goal over the winter and after evaluating a number of options I am very excited to have this opportunity to demonstrate that I am ready for this next step in my racing career.”
And the 23-year old driver added, “The next two weeks of preparation for the season will be incredibly busy but I am ready to get started tomorrow with my first day in the MR02.”
By Berthold Bouman
Kimi Raikkonen was fastest in the Lotus E21 during the final pre-season testing day at Jerez today with a lap of 1m18.148. Felipe Massa was fastest overall after four days of testing at the Spanish circuit, as he was fastest yesterday with a lap of 1m17.879.
Raikkonen was optimistic about the progress he had made today, “We’re at the top of the timing monitors, but that means nothing in testing. Our focus has been testing parts on the car, but I’ve been able to get the set-up more to my liking.”
And he added, “For sure there’s more work to be done in this area, but that’s what we’re here for. The car feels strong and we seem to have a good idea of where we’re going with improvements. Let’s see what happens in Barcelona.”
Testing was halted for almost an hour after pieces of the exit kerb of Turn 9 had been ripped off by the powerful Formula One machines. After an hour the problem was fixed and the circuit officials decided to add another extra 30 minutes, and thus today’s testing ended at 17:30 local time.
Kimi Raikkonen talks with the press – Photo: Lotus F1
Surprisingly, Jules Bianchi was second fastest in the Force India VJM06, he was just 0.027s slower than the Finn. Third was Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull RB9, and the triple World Champion was four-tenths of second behind Raikkonen.
Second-placed Bianchi said, “My first experience of the new car was very positive and it’s clearly an improvement over last year’s car.” His mission today was testing the new Pirellis, “I spent most of the time on the medium tyres, but I got a chance to run the softs as well and they offered a lot of grip so I enjoyed that. It was also nice to do some long runs, so I’ve felt the car on heavy fuel, which is good for my experience.”
Vettel, in third place, was especially happy with the reliability of the RB9. “I think for the whole team it’s been quite a good test,” he said. “No problems in terms of reliability and we did a lot of laps, so I’m quite pleased with the results. I feel a bit better than last year. I think we had some issues with reliability then, so it seems we have done our homework well.”
Esteban Gutierrez was fourth for Sauber after completing 142 laps. Like others, he also tested the new 2013 spec tyres, “We did some new tyre runs at mid-day, and then we did some long runs with high fuel in the afternoon, which gave me the chance to try the car in all different circumstances. It was very interesting for me, because I was able to feel very different things, and I learnt how to adapt my driving style to different situations.”
Successful day for Lewis Hamilton – Photo: Mercedes Benz
Toro Rosso’s Jean-Eric Vergne again showed the STR8 is fast as he took fifth place, just ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who crashed on Tuesday, but today was behind the wheel of his Mercedes for 145 laps, and set a fastest time of 1m18.905.
“Today we managed the kind of mileage that the car is capable of and I think we have a good platform to start working from. Now we need to understand the F1 W04 even more: personally, I am learning something with every lap I do and every change I make to the set-up,” Hamilton said. “Overall, I think we are probably at the level we would have hoped to be. The team has done a great job to add downforce to the car over the winter and they now need Nico and me to tell them where we can improve and the direction we need to go.”
Sergio Perez, who took over Hamilton’s job at the McLaren team, was again not really quick and landed seventh place in today’s rankings.
Valtteri Bottas was eighth on his second outing in the Williams FW34. Williams again tested components for the FW35, and Bottas was pleased with the results, ” We have achieved everything we planned this week without any issues, and I’ve really liked how the new technical team have been working. We collected some valuable data regarding some parts for the new car and now I’m excited to go to Barcelona to drive the FW35 for the first time.”
Pedro de la Rosa was ninth after a gearbox failure – Photo: Ferrari
The day started with a lot of bad luck for Pedro de la Rosa and Ferrari, the F138 had a gearbox failure after just two laps, and de la Rosa had to park his smoking Ferrari, track marshals quickly extinguished the fire and the car was brought back to the pit lane. The Ferrari engineers worked hard to replace the gearbox and the Spaniard was able to complete 50 laps today, and finished ninth.
Frenchman Charles Pic was in the Caterham today, and tested the KERS system, and Pic commented, “One key part of this test was to work on getting the most out of KERS and we’ve definitely made good progress on that. There’s still more to come from that, especially maximising its performance under braking, but I’m really happy with what we’ve worked through and can’t wait to get back in the car in Barcelona.”
Luiz Razia was 11th in the Marussia, but 3 seconds slower than pace-setter Raikkonen, while Paul di Resta was 12th and last.
Pre-season testing will resume at the Circuit de Catalunya, near Barcelona, from 19 to 22 February.
Jerez testing times – Day 4 – February 8
Pos Driver Team Time Laps 1. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 1m18.148 82 2. Jules Bianchi Force India 1m18.175 + 0.027 56 3. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1m18.565 + 0.417 96 4. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber 1m18.669 + 0.521 142 5. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 1m18.760 + 0.612 92 6. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1m18.905 + 0.757 145 7. Sergio Perez McLaren 1m18.944 + 0.796 97 8. Valtteri Bottas Williams 1m19.851 + 1.703 91 9. Pedro de la Rosa Ferrari 1m20.316 + 2.168 50 10. Charles Pic Caterham 1m21.105 + 2.957 109 11. Luiz Razia Marussia 1m21.226 + 3.078 81 12. Paul di Resta Force India 1m23.435 + 5.287 49