#4 – Max Chilton – Great Britain – 11 Starts, 0 Points, Best Finish: 13th (Australia, Bahrain), Championship Position: 21st
#17 – Jules Bianchi – France – 11 Starts, 2 Points, Best Finish: 9th (Monaco), Championship Position: 16th
Marussia finally grabbed their first ever World Constructors’ Championship points in the first half of the 2014 Formula 1 season, and as a result find themselves in the lofty heights of ninth in the standings.
Having debuted in F1 back in 2010 under the Virgin Racing banner, it took until the Monaco Grand Prix of 2014 to score for the first time, with Jules Bianchi securing ninth place and two points that see them sit ahead of both Sauber and Caterham in the championship.
Whereas in the past Marussia have been fighting purely with Caterham over tenth and eleventh places (and HRT when they were in F1 up to 2012), this year the team have been finally making steps to challenge the established teams ahead of them. When the opportunity has arisen, both Bianchi and team-mate Max Chilton have maximised their potential and put the Marussia higher up than it truly deserves to be.
2014 saw Marussia use Ferrari power for the first time, having seen Cosworth pull out of F1 due to the new rule changes, and while not the most powerful power unit on the grid this year, it has given the young team a good base to build on for the future.
Bianchi’s season did not get off to the best of starts with a non-classification in Australia, after a long period in the pits, being followed by a retirement in Malaysia in a crash with the Lotus of Pastor Maldonado that earned the Frenchman two penalty points on his Superlicence.
Monaco was the breakthrough the team and Bianchi needed. Despite a lowly grid slot, the Frenchman was able to work his way up into the points, and despite a five second penalty being applied for not starting in the correct grid position, took ninth. Without the penalty he would have also been ahead of the Lotus of Romain Grosjean.
Chilton’s 100% finishing record in Formula 1 came to a crashing halt in Montreal, when he made a mistake that saw the Briton retire after turning his team-mate into the wall. Whereas last year Chilton was only able to out-qualify Bianchi on one occasion, he has already managed it three times in 2014, but the average gap between the two remains about the same.
The team are also making strides in qualifying, and took advantage of the wet conditions at Silverstone to take their best ever starting positions. After finishing fourth and sixth in the first part of qualifying, they took 12th and 13th in Q2, with Bianchi just ahead of Chilton. Another good qualifying effort came in Hungary last time out, with Bianchi getting into Q2 for the second time this year with a lap that knocked the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen out.
We all know Marussia are not yet at the level of the midfield runners on a regular basis, but much like Minardi from the past, they are beginning to be the likeable underdogs that take advantage of any small opportunity that comes their way. In Jules Bianchi they have a driver who should one day be in a Ferrari, and while Max Chilton is not at the Frenchman’s level, he is beginning to put together a more impressive season than his debut year.
It might be hard for the team to maintain their ninth place in the championship, especially with Sauber appearing to be becoming stronger, but they should be able to keep ahead of Caterham for tenth and the valuable financially boost that position holds for them. Both drivers are eager to continue to push, and should the opportunity to score points arise again, expect them to grab that opportunity with both hands.