2013 Season Preview: Marussia

Marussia:

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What a preseason this team has had. In January, they shockingly split with Timo Glock for money reasons; namely the team not having any, and halfway through testing, they split again, but this time with Timo’s replacement, Luiz Razia. This time, the money promised by Luiz’s sponsors could not pay the money the team were due, and they unfortunately had to part ways with the 2012 GP2 vice champion.

Jules Bianchi was called up to the vacant race seat with just three days of preseason testing left and soon got up to speed. The car is probably the team’s greatest achievement. The introduction of KERS and a Williams gearbox will hopefully help the team catch arch rivals, Caterham and maybe put them in the midfield in the future.

Plucking another GP2 graduate makes this team the only one to field two rookies. This would seem unwise considering they need experience to help guide them through the struggles of back marker obscurity, but once again, money talked, and it said that Marussia needed it more than an experienced driver.

This is probably true, as the 2014 regulations overhaul could potentially put Marussia out of business. The financial strains the team is already under sends ominous signs to anyone who may want to invest in the team in the future.

Max Chilton:

While he put on an impressive performance in the latter half of the 2012 GP2 season, many argue that the Briton’s place in F1 has been achieved a bit prematurely. He didn’t put in the stellar performances in GP2 one would want to have achieved before stepping up to F1.

In preseason testing, he at least got a lot of seat time as the teammate situation was being worked out. The Marussia is a difficult beast to drive, but there is a sense that the year won’t be completely for naught.

Max clearly has talent and if he can continue the (one-time) trend of Marussia rookies staying in F1, he could have a decent F1 career ahead of him.

Jules Bianchi:

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This man had probably the most up and down preseason than any other driver. After narrowly missing out on the Formula Renault 3.5 championship, the Frenchman found himself in the thick of the battle for the second Force India seat. By the time testing came around, the fight was between him and Adrian Sutil. With the seat going to the German, it seemed Jules was left to sit through another year of Friday practice sessions in 2013.

Many expected Jules to take the final seat at Force India, as his connections to Ferrari in their driver academy make the possibility of a cheap Ferrari engine deal for 2014 would be very enticing to any midfield F1 team. In the end, the seat wasn’t Jules’s and many were upset that his talent would once again be restrained to watching from the sidelines.

Then came Marussia to the rescue. Hardly the most glamorous or sought after seat, the appointment at Marussia did at least give Jules the chance to race and display his immense talents. At Barcelona, Jules got his first taste of the Marussia as he took the wheel on the third day of the second test at Catalunya. He impressed immediately, showing no reservations in the face of a brand new car. He set some very impressive lap times and proved that Force India may have possibly made the wrong decision in their driver choice.

Even though the year spent at Marussia won’t cement his place in F1 history, it will at least put him on the map for a possible consideration for the most likely empty Ferrari seat alongside Alonso for 2014. With Felipe Massa seemingly approaching retirement, Jules, along with a few other drivers, will be in the frame for the seat. 2013 is his chance to prove he deserves the top line drive we all know he is capable of handling.

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