Continuing the season in review with the team who after 4 seasons of trying finally reached the lowly heights of 10th place in the Constructors Championship – Marussia
Marussia had in previous seasons been the last of the serious efforts on the grid but had managed to finish behind the shambolic HRT outfit in their previous guise as Virgin GP. With the team now folded it meant that the worst they could was finish 11th and 2013 was a season to be optimistic for the team. Charles Pic had been poached by rivals Caterham, leaving a hole in the budget rather than the talent department but this was to be easily filled by perennial GP2 challenger Max Chilton and his large chunk of his fathers Aon money. The team had also now long ditched its attempts to use only CFD to design their cars and had former world champion technical director Pat Symonds on the books.
The first stumbling block was the realisation that either they hadn’t got enough money for the season or that the real challenge would come in 2014 so it was worth covering their costs with a pay driver. The team sent Timo Glock off to DTM (in fact Charles Pic is the only driver to survive in F1 after driving for the team!) and managed to sign up GP2 runner up Luiz Razia. A risk surely but with a good junior pedigree he should of provided some speed and a stern test to Chilton. However it was not to be as the Brazilians sponsors didn’t pull through so despite testing the car the team were still on the lookout for another driver with support to pilot the MR-02 for the season. At this point an offer came along from the other more famous red team: Ferrari.
Jules Bianchi was offered to Marussia in exchange for what we believe to be a greatly reduced costs for engines in 2014 (as no other stickers appeared on the car) which would tick the boxes the team were looking for. Increasinly it seems the top teams are funding the really talented drivers and finding them births lower down the grid. Red Bull have Toro Rosso (and even got the wallet out again for Daniel Ricciardo to toddle around in an HRT for half a season), McLaren attempted it with Kevin Magnussen and now Ferrari have Marussia. But what a turn up for the books that deal would be.
With the team later confirming that the last real update they brought to the car was the Barcelona the business was done early with Jules Bianchi gaining a 13th place in Malaysia to seal 10th place in the Constructors and a nice little boost of prize money. However they will need to repeat the feat in the next two seasons to really reap the rewards and become a Category 2 team.
Max Chilton on the other hand didn’t posses the raw speed of Jules Bianchi but did manage to finish every single race of the season, a first in the history of the sport. Despite having the luxury of doing the complete testing programme he was regularly shown up come Saturday and a deficits of over a second were not uncommon, some progress was made in the latter half of the season but the Briton didn’t shine too brightly against the Ferrari back Bianchi. An average deficit of +0.585 (The worst apart from Esteban Gutierrez who did manage to overcome his issues during the season) over the season in qualifying and an average finishing position of 21st (compared to 19.89 for Jules) do not suggest he is the next World Champion.
Next season will see the team running Ferrari power and continue with Jules Bianchi, the strong indication that for the first time Marussia will stick with its driver pairing and give Chilton another season – and Marussia financials some stability. Its a big year for the two teams at the back of the grid as the new regulations present an opportunity to get on terms with the established teams, it really could be make or break in 2014.