10 FEBRUARY 2013
Out of the Box
In Part 1 of our pre-season testing story, we reflect on the road to Jerez in words and pictures
The F1 show is back on the road after a long hard winter. Although the five weeks between now and the 2013 curtain-raiser in Melbourne will seem like an eternity to some, for the teams, the hamster wheel is already turning - and fast.
Even at this early stage in the season, it’s a case of ‘keep up or catch up’. Roll back the clock 12 months and we had already lost the advantage by not hitting the ground running at the first of the pre-season tests. Or the next two. This time round, we’ve just completed our first four days of running in Jerez and there are two more weeks of testing to get our teeth into before we pack up and head Down Under.
We’ve had quite a week in southern Spain. We revealed the MR02 and its striking new livery, fielded our new British hopeful Max Chilton, announced that his team-mate would be Brazil’s Luiz Razia - and put Luiz in the car that same day!
Here we take a look back on the busy but exciting 'journey' to Jerez and the glimpse that it provided of what you can expect from the Marussia F1 Team this season.
The MR02 was revealed to a large crowd of media on the grid at the Circuito de Jerez, just 45 minutes before we embarked on our debut lap.
What a difference a year makes
This time last year, we sat out the opening pre-season test as we endured the difficult birth of the MR01. The car was delayed for various operational reasons and passing the decisive final crash test was proving problematic; for 2012, teams had to pass all the tests before they could take part in on-track testing.
One year on and we are in entirely different shape. The challenging timelines that go hand in hand with bringing a new car to the track have not gone away of course; it’s always a frenetic and frustrating period for F1 teams. But with each new season - and we’ve had just three in our young existence - our approach is refined through experience as we continue to mature as a racing organisation.
By the first week of February we had passed all the mandatory FIA crash tests and the first of three MR02 chassis was almost complete. In fact, the only outstanding target to be met was the car’s ‘lights-camera-action’ moment in a photo studio. By lunchtime Saturday, on the weekend prior to the opening test, the car left Banbury for Jerez in southern Spain - just like it said on the schedule.
The MR02 is a substantial evolution of the MR01, with some brand new developments for good measure. The most fundamental of these is the integration of KERS, which the engineering team expect to contribute to a significant performance step in the season ahead. That and various new aerodynamic and mechanical solutions certainly kept the technical community occupied over the winter months.
Just like the weather, there were good days and there were dark days during that period. Chief among the latter was the announcement that, by mutual consent, the Team and its race driver Timo Glock would go their separate ways after three seasons together. Timo is a world-class driver who has contributed an enormous depth of experience to our Team; we would miss him for sure. Unfortunately, though, the ongoing challenges facing the industry meant that we had to take steps to secure our long-term future. It wasn’t too long - days, in fact - before Timo had secured himself a fantastic new racing opportunity and we wish him well in the DTM series this season. For us, a new driver line-up and a new chapter in the Marussia F1 Team story.
Our steely eyed Team Principal John Booth knows a thing or two about stars of the future. He's had Lewis AND Kimi on his books!
Born and Bred
A key element of the Marussia F1 Team philosophy is providing opportunity for the next generation of Formula 1 talent. It’s tough at the top and hard to break through, but genuine talent always shines a light. Our Team Principal John Booth ran a highly successful Formula 3 team back in the day, which schooled young prodigies Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Räikkönen, amongst others. He has a keen eye for a star of the future and can often be seen on the pitwall at a Formula 1 race when the junior formulae are out on track. The GP2 Series is a good hunting ground, as the main stepping stone to the pinnacle of racing, but the Marussia F1 Team also fields its own GP3 squad at the European races, where the third generation of young drivers are just as hungry.
It’s the way of the world, and certainly the sport, that we all need to have more than one string to our bow. These days, Formula 1 drivers need to be the full package. But the factor that contributes most to their elevation from the GP2 paddock to Formula 1’s inner sanctum is the talent John Booth spies on the racetrack. They have to have made an impression on the steely Yorkshireman and, at some stage or other, the rookie drivers who got to race alongside Timo for the Team’s three formative seasons all caught his eye.
For 2013 we shift from a combination of youth and experience to an exciting all-rookie line-up. A leap of faith? Possibly, although Brazilian Luiz Razia and Briton Max Chilton have both enjoyed great success in GP2 and they are both graduates of the Marussia F1 Team Young Driver Programme. They are a known quantity, exciting young talents and the extent of their ambition is clear for all to see. We are excited by what they can achieve together.
The end of a successful first day of testing, but the sun is far from setting on Max Chilton's career. It's only just begun, and it will be very exciting to see what he can deliver in his rookie season.
The Max Factor
At 21 years of age, Max is one of the youngest drivers on the 2013 grid, but ask anyone who knows him well and they will say that he is an incredibly mature head on young shoulders. He has been racing since he was 14 years old and has grown up in racing circles, so he knows what it takes to succeed in the highly competitive Formula 1 environment.
Max is the relaxed, gregarious type and off-track his infectious personality certainly steals the show with sponsors, fans and of course his Team, who’ve loved having him around since he came on board as Reserve Driver in the Autumn of 2012. When he steps into the cockpit, his youthful exuberance outside of the car gives way to an intense focus on what he needs to deliver in it, both of himself and from the package. He is comfortable in his role and confident in his feedback - impressive beyond his years.
One of four British drivers in race seats this season, he is both aware and wary of comparisons. Max is very much his own man and, whilst he has spent the last 13 years following the careers of the other members of that Brit-pack, he has less of an interest in being labelled "the next Jenson Button", but a burning desire to prove himself as Max Chilton.
This week in the MR02 he has demonstrated great ‘out of the box’ potential in terms of what he extracts from both man and machine. He is quick and will get quicker - that’s for certain.
Razia Returns? Yep, Luiz Razia was our Reserve Driver back in 2010, so there was a bit of deja-vu attached to the announcement this week that he had joined our Team. He's back! With a vengeance...
This week in Jerez we welcomed back Luiz Razia to the Marussia F1 Team fold. He was our Reserve Driver back in 2010, our debut season and, at a time when we were all finding our feet together, he was closely integrated into the race team, both away from and at the track.
Luiz was a methodical guy even back then and planned his day in meticulous detail. His determination was clear for all to see and we certainly saw that come to fruition in the GP2 Series last season, when he fought his way to the runner-up spot in the championship.
One of Luiz’s other stand-out qualities is his acute sense of humour. He has a sharp wit and when he’s not in the car, he loves a bit of banter with his 'old' team.
One of two Brazilian drivers in the Championship this season, Luiz is hugely popular back home and brings an army of ‘brasileiros’ to the Team’s burgeoning fan base. Home is a place he doesn’t get to see very often; like all young racers with aspirations of making it to the very top, he sacrificed family life to make the move to Europe back in 2007. He placed himself in the heart of ‘motorsport valley’ and as a Milton Keynes resident he is right on the doorstep of the Marussia Technical Centre. We expect to see him at the factory on a very regular basis if 2010 was anything to go by; we couldn’t keep him away!
Luiz was unfazed by the glare of the spotlight on Wednesday morning when the announcement regarding his drive went to press. He was in an engineering meeting at the time and preparing to climb into the cockpit just under an hour later. He had a solid acclimatisation day and a more substantial run at exploring the MR02 on Friday, albeit he missed out on some of his performance programme. As is the case with Max, we have barely lifted the lid on Luiz’s potential.
The lollipop drops on a pretty successful debut test with the MR02. Almost 1000kms in the can at this early stage of our pre-season development programme.
So, after four days of running with a brand new car and our all new driver line-up, “what’s the verdict?”, we hear you cry. In F1 circles we often say “we won’t really know until we get to Melbourne” and to some extent, that’s true. Jerez did however provide a first indication of man and machine and early next week, when the engineering team have digested all the data, we’ll be back with a greater insight into how things went for us ‘straight out of the box’.
We’ll give you a heads-up on Twitter @Marussia_F1Team and at our Facebook page MarussiaF1Team