Mid-Season Review: Max Chilton

Well, Formula One 2013 has been exhilarating from the very start, but now we enter the dreaded Summer Shutdown where the on-track action takes somewhat of a sabbatical while everyone catches their breath. As of today, there are 22 days until Friday Practice in Belgium and coincidentally 22 drivers currently competing at the pinnacle of motorsport. Instead of posting the all too common team by team analysis, I have decided to assess each and every driver, with a mid-season report posted on a daily basis. It is certainly going to be a hectic month and hopefully full of entertaining content. First up, its Max Chilton under the spotlight.

22-year old Max Chilton has had a mediocre start to his F1 career. Following his promising 2012 campaign in the highly competitive GP2 series, Marussia decided that the time was right to launch the young Brit into the spotlight. This in itself, was a highly debatable decision, as Max had struggled to show the consistency which the likes of Luiz Razia and Davide Valsecchi had managed. However, P4 in the standings was a highly respectable position, which was supported by impressive victories in Hungary and Singapore. Promoting Max was always going to be a risk and considering the gamble, Marussia will be pleased with his progress.
While he currently sits at the very bottom of the standings, his results have not always reflected this, especially since Caterham have caught up in the development battle of late. After such a promising start, where Max had frequently outperformed Giedo Van Der Garde and challenged the comparatively experienced Charles Pic, recent results have been disappointing.
His best finish of the season came during a highly eventful Monaco Grand Prix. His P14 was greatly assisted by the seven cars which failed to finish, yet to finish ahead of Giedo Van Der Garde was exceptional in the circumstances. Max caused an unfortunate incident on the entry to Tabac, as the Williams of Pastor Maldonado looked to pass him on the outside. The inexperienced Max failed to spot the Venezuelan and squeezed him against the barriers, before a helpless Pastor slammed into the Tecpro barriers. Following such an incident, it would have been easy for Max to loose composure however, his opportunistic approach saw him scythe past Van Der Garde on the penultimate lap of the race. Following the conclusion, Max evaluated; “The stewards determined a drive-through penalty for me and I accept that decision. After the race I went to see Pastor to check he was okay. The incident made for a difficult rest of the race but all I could do was concentrate on the best result for the team and, problems aside, I think we have to be pleased with the end result.” A mature response, demonstrating the vast rate at which Max is learning his trade.
While all eyes have been firmly fixed on Jules Bianchi’s incredible start to his F1 career, intra-team comparisons should be made with caution in regards to the battle of the teammates. Jules undoubtedly beholds more experience than Max, following his lengthy stint as a Force India development driver, before becoming the teams reserve driver in 2012. His extensive testing duties included driving for not only Force India but for Ferrari, as part of their young driver programme. Consequently, his lack of running in the MR02 during pre-season testing was insignificant. While they are both rookies, they certainly have alternative mindset’s within the team, which translates to their different objectives.
Max is a perfect example of the “could do better” analogy. His performances have been overshadowed by the strength of his teammate which will always be a hindrance rather than a help in terms of media pressure. However, this was and still is to be expected. Despite this, he would benefit from outracing the Caterham’s once again, as this would certainly prompt deserved recognition yet this could become an even greater challenge. Caterham have evidently been aided by the change to 2012 construction tyres, meaning that Marussia and Chilton himself, need to work even harder to bridge the gap. Considering Marussia’s track record of ditching their second driver after one season, Max may begin to develop fears of becoming the next Lucas Di Grassi, or Jerome D’Ambrosio if improvements are not implemented.      

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