The Marussia-Ferrari team enjoyed the mixed conditions in qualifying at Silverstone ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix after seeing Jules Bianchi take the team’s best ever qualifying position with twelfth, while team-mate Max Chilton will start seventeenth after a gearbox penalty relegated him from P13.
Bianchi admitted it was a gamble to go out on slicks during the session but felt that the gamble was worth taking. He was disappointed that yellow flags were out for Esteban Gutierrez crashing his Sauber near the end of the session that possibly cost the Frenchman a shot at qualifying in the top ten.
“A fantastic day for the Team and I’m so happy for everyone,” said Bianchi. “After our first points in Monaco, it’s great that we have now achieved the Team’s best ever qualifying result. Today’s situation was not easy and so this result is down to a combination of great strategy, judging the changing conditions to perfection and then just making the most of the windows we had out on the track when the conditions were right for the tyres.
“It was a real gamble, but we had everything to gain from taking some risks, so for the last run we put the slicks on even though the track was right at the limit. I had a really good lap and then the Yellow flags came out for Gutierrez’s spin. Had we not encountered these I could have improved for sure and who knows what might have happened then.
“I’m just really happy to achieve this result at the Team’s home race and anything is possible from where we will start on the grid tomorrow. I will try my best to make the most of every opportunity.”
Team-mate Chilton was happy with his performance to take the thirteenth fastest time, but like Bianchi was slightly disappointed that the yellow flag for Gutierrez’s crash meant he couldn’t improve even more. Complete with his five place penalty for his gearbox change, the Briton will start seventeenth in between the two Ferrari’s of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen.
“The Team has done an incredible job today, making some fantastic calls and putting us right where we needed to be at exactly the right time,” said Chilton. “I’m really thrilled with P13 but the reality is, had it not been for the Yellow for Gutierrez, we could have ended up even higher as in those damp conditions you put a banker in and then do your quick lap at the end.
“Obviously I’ve got the five place penalty for this morning’s gearbox change, which will drop me back, but a good qualifying session was what I needed because of that penalty, and that is what we’ve achieved, so I can’t be disheartened.
“It’s a fantastic feeling to have had such a good qualifying in front of the British fans and I can’t wait for the race now. I’m ahead of the Caterhams and maybe similar conditions will be what we need to progress because we’re very strong under pressure, as we’ve shown.”
Team Principal John Booth was delighted with his drivers for making the best of the conditions and bringing the team its best ever qualifying result in its history. He admitted that the information the team gathered from other teams during free practice was beneficial when it came to qualifying, after losing some track time during free practice on Saturday morning.
“Heading into this afternoon’s qualifying, the Team was still recovering from a tough start to the day, having experienced a failure of Max’s gearbox on the install lap and Jules unfortunately not getting many laps prior to spinning off in the wet conditions,” said Booth. “From a strategic point of view we had however gained a lot of useful information from looking at the other runners in FP3 and in the build-up to qualifying we had been able to formulate a good plan in the event of us seeing a repeat of FP3 conditions.
“As expected, the session did start wet and both cars went straight out on the intermediate tyres, in order to set a banker lap early on, given the fact that the weather had been so unpredictable. Armed with all of our calculations it became clear that we were in the window for dry tyres, so both cars came back in for slicks, which was very much the right way to go, moving us into Q2.
“In that session, we saw an almost identical repeat of the conditions and again our strategy paid off, fuelling both cars for the session and using the flexibility of pit stops to always ensure we had the right tyre for conditions. Max made a stop for another set of intermediate tyres, due to him having to back off early on a lap. However, we reacted quickly when we saw the track was ready for dry tyres again, pitting Jules and Max immediately to maximise the opportunity.
“The Yellow at the end made things tricky, but ultimately we can see just how prepared the Team is for the opportunities that exist in the midfield and P12 and P13 is a fantastic reward for our progress. Really well done to both drivers today for doing exactly what was required of them at every stage of our two qualifying sessions.”