Max Chilton firmly believes that he could’ve extracted more pace out of his Marussia car during qualifying for the Spanish Grand Prix, where the former GP2 driver managed to out-qualify team-mate Jules Bianchi for the fifth time in his career to qualify 17th. Despite ending both practice two and practice three in the gravel trap, the Briton managed to bounce back in tremendous form.
Since making his debut at the Australian Grand Prix last season with Marussia after graduating from the GP2 Series, Max Chilton has managed to finish all 24 races he has competed in. Although the 23-year-old regularly finished each race of the 2013 campaign towards the back of the order, he has this season managed to finish 13th on two occasions at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix and the Bahrain Grand Prix, the latter of which in particular saw him finish ahead of Pastor Maldonado, Kamui Kobayashi and team-mate Jules Bianchi. Due to these two 13th place finishes at Melbourne and Sakhir, Max Chilton has enabled Marussia to once again gain an early lead in their Constructors’ Championship battle with Caterham, a similar stat which enabled them to remain ahead of their rivals last season.
Despite enduring a brief engine issue during the early stages of practice two and subsequently ending the session in the gravel trap, Max Chilton ended the opening day of the Spanish Grand Prix weekend positive with new developments being added to his Marussia MR-02. However, during the third and final practice session Chilton once again ended up in the gravel trap, after a making a similar mistake at turn five. Although his car became beached in the gravel which therefore signified the end of his participation in practice three, Max Chilton still ended the session 19th overall ahead of his team-mate and the Caterham duo with 15 laps completed.
Boosted by such impressive form during the third and final practice session in comparison to his team-mate and immediate rivals, Max Chilton entered the all-important qualifying hour optimistic. After his first timed lap the Briton sat in 18th position with a 01:30.472, just behind team-mate Jules Bianchi yet ahead of the Caterham and Lotus duo. Eventually Romain Grosjean managed to catapult himself further up the order, before Max Chilton returned to the Circuit de Catalunya to produce a 01:29.586 which enabled him to move one place up ahead of Jules Bianchi. Despite such a promising qualifying session for the Reigate-born driver, he firmly believes that more was to come from his car and that the balance is still not perfect.
“I’m really happy with that,” explained Max Chilton after out-qualifying Jules Bianchi. “I’m not sure we got the balance exactly where we would have liked it, but in the end my second quick lap was pretty together and it all came good when it counted. That session showed we have made a step forward with our new developments; there’s no doubt that we are closer to the Saubers – and to Q2 contention – and we’ve pulled away from the Caterhams by a good margin. As I say, there was definitely more to come from the car, so I’m pretty optimistic for the race tomorrow. I think we can have a good fight.”
With Jean-Eric Vergne set to incur a ten-place grid penalty after losing a wheel during the latter stages of practice two on Friday, Max Chilton has therefore been promoted to 17th with Vergne set to start the race from last position alongside the Lotus of Pastor Maldonado. Despite the optimism instilled in the team after their impressive qualifying performance, they still sit around a second behind the Sauber of Adrian Sutil and the coveted Q2 cut-off. Although a points finish still seems far away for Marussia and Max Chilton, there is no denying that the Anglo-Russian outfit is continuing to improve in relation to their arch-rivals Caterham in what is once again shaping to be a fascinating battle at the back of the pack.
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