As the Formula 1 fraternity prepares to reconvene for the second half of the season at Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps, the battle towards the rear of the pack is far from settled as both Marussia and Caterham remain fixed in a thrilling battle for 10th in the Constructors’ Championship.
Due to Jules Bianchi’s impressive 13th position at the Malaysian Grand Prix during the opening stages of the season, Marussia have remained ahead of Caterham in the Championship, despite neither teams so far scoring any points. With the Constructors’ prize money this year only being awarded to the top ten in the Championship, the battle between Marussia and Caterham means much more than just pride.
As Jules Bianchi prepares to compete in his first ever Formula 1 race around the daunting Spa-Francorchamps circuit, the Frenchman sat down with Richland F1’s own Andy Young to discuss his debut season so far and his future ambitions in the frenetic world of Formula 1.
Q: Despite completing 297 less laps than team-mate Max Chilton during winter testing, you have so far enjoyed a rather competitive debut season with Marussia. How would you sum up your first half of the season?
Jules Bianchi: The first half of the season has been very good for me at least, even if I did do less testing [with Marussia]. I had the test with Force India, but for sure I wasn’t expecting to be racing with Marussia this year as it was really late in the last test in February. Yeah, the first half of the season went really well and I’m really pleased with that.
Q: How much do think you have improved as a driver so far this season?
JB: I think I’ve improved a lot, I have a lot more experience now even if it is only ten races but I think it counts a lot for a driver to be on the grid, driving and fighting for position. Everything in Formula 1 is a bit more complicated so it’s very good to be driving in this form of motorsport and for sure I have learnt a lot.
Q: Next season Marussia are switching from Cosworth to Ferrari power. What are your future ambitions in Formula 1, do you plan to stay with Marussia for another season?
JB: Well first of all I’m just concentrating on this year, for sure I’d be happy to stay with Marussia next season as well. Obviously my manager is working on my future but my feeling is that I’m feeling very good in the team. I’m happy to stay with Marussia.
Q: Next season races in both Austria and Russia look set to be added to the already packed calendar. France don’t have a Grand Prix yet, however are you hopeful that it will eventually return and if so where?
JB: Well I hope so, as my we now have four French drivers in Formula 1 and it would be important to have a race. But unfortunately it is not in our hands and it’s a difficult choice, I don’t know if it will come back; I hope so. I don’t mind whereabouts it is, just as long as it’s in France. I don’t mind it it’s in Paul Ricard or Magny-Cours as I like both tracks.
Q: So far this season Marussia has been exceptionally consistent, with only two retirements all season. How confident are both you and the team on remaining consistent throughout the remainder of the season and staying ahead of Caterham?
JB: I hope we will stay in front of Caterham, for sure we are trying our best to stay in front. The last three races have been a bit more difficult for us, as we have finished behind them, but we are still ahead of them in the Constructors’ Championship. For the remainder of the season we have to keep pushing. For sure the next two tracks are good for our car, and that is something positive we need to use.
Q: In Hungary the tyres changed after the Silverstone fiasco. How have these revised tyres behaved with the car? Have they benefitted the team and been an improvement?
JB: They have been an improvement because didn’t have any recurring issues like Silverstone, but in terms of degradation and speed it was the same at least for us so that was not a big change.
Q: Qualifying is always important in Formula 1, especially around Spa-Francorchamps. What are the team’s plans to prepare for the weekend ahead?
JB: We will do our usual preparations, in FP1 we will try to be on the limit as soon as possible and try to find the limit of the car. In FP2 we will look at tyre degradation and see what we can do with the tyres and in FP3 we will look at our qualifying setup and try and be as quick as possible. It will be the same approach as a normal race.
Q: Spa has become notorious for its changeable weather conditions, with some parts of the track remaining dry when it rains and vice-versa. With an 85% chance of rain on race day, how do you approach qualifying with regards to tyres and setup with a threat of rain the following day?
JB: It’s too early to speak about what tyres we will start on, but for sure during our setup on Friday and Saturday we will take into consideration the rain. But again I think it is too early, we will have to wait and see what happens during the weekend.
Many thanks to Jules Bianchi and Tracy Novak for the communication and time taken to complete this interview.
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