The second of the 2013 Team Reviews sees Marussia placed under the microscope. Marussia’s 2013 season was a story of mission accomplished, as they managed to claim the lucrative P10 in the constructors championship which had evaded them since their formation in 2010. Jules Bianchi sparkled throughout the season, earning the status of being one of Formula One’s hottest properties. Meanwhile, Max Chilton became the first rookie in history to finish every race his début season. However, it was not a perfect season for Banbury squad…
Undoubtedly 2013 was an excellent step forward for the team. Despite the Luiz Razia affair, it was a magnificent start to the season for the team as they capitalised on Caterham’s issues and this eventually proved to be a crucial period of the season. Jules Bianchi hit the ground running and snatched P13 in Malaysia, which proved to be the all important result which took Marussia to the illustrious P10 in the championship, demoting Caterham to the tail of the field.
However, the team will not look back on this year with total satisfaction. They failed to update their car, with the final package coming in Barcelona, which allowed Caterham to accelerate ahead. Their P10 position was under threat for the majority of the season and it was a situation which was out of their control. However, the team cannot be totally blamed for this lack of in-season development, as they had set out a clear agenda – to neglect research into the 2013 car, opting to conserve the already constrained resources on the revolutionary 2014. The mere fact that the team managed to obtain their objective of P10 while focussing on next season is something that they will be proud of. Their fate was in the clutches of Caterham and fingernails were at a premium on the pit wall, but the team did in fact survive in P10. However, they will look to maintain a sufficient level of in-season development next season, eclipsing that of Caterham.
As for the drivers, Marussia were always taking a gamble by signing two rookies, yet it was a risk which has most certainly paid off. Both Binachi and Chilton impressed this season, with the former worthy of a particular mention. His P13 in Malaysia was the result which sealed the team’s standing over Caterham and was followed by a number of notable performances throughout the year. His achievements are particularly poignant considering that he missed two of the three pre-season tests and was only drafted in at Marussia when their relationship with Luiz Razia broke down as a result of Luiz’s sponsors failing to provide the promised funding. With Jules being declined by a Force India team opting for Adrian Sutil just a day later, Marussia did not hesitate to offer the Frenchman a seat. He proved to be one of the best panic signings in recent history and was immediately on the pace in the final pre-season test in Barcelona, despite having a poorly finished seat. It is no surprise that the Frenchman will be staying on at Marussia in 2014.
Meanwhile, Max Chilton will be satisfied with his début season. While the Brit was outclassed by his highly talented teammate, this was to be expected. Bianchi has been involved in the sport for several years, acting in a testing role for Force India since 2011. Consequently, Max was always on the back foot in regards to experience. Notable results for the Brit came in Monaco, where he achieved a P14 result, while his magnificent Qualifying performance in Spa saw Max claim a well deserved P16 on the grid. Finishing every race this season has proved to the team that Max is a reliable driver, yet whether that is enough to convince John Booth and Graeme Lowdon to re-sign Chilton for another season is yet to be realised.
In conclusion, Marussia have enjoyed their strongest season so far. They managed to identify a development path early on in the year and I commend them for having the courage to take a risky strategy in order to improve their 2014 credentials. It is risks such as these which could be the catalyst for a breakthrough into the midfield – so long as they pay off of course.