The weekend began with confusion for the Marussia F1 Team with Alexander Rossi briefly being thrust into the drive in place of Max Chilton, but the team have not let this affect them and saw Jules Bianchi qualify sixteenth and Chilton nineteenth at Spa-Francorchamps.
For the second year in a row and for the third time in 2014, Bianchi put his Marussia into the second part of qualifying, and will start sixteenth. He is optimistic that he can have a good race, but feels the team are still missing a bit of performance that would enable them to be able to challenge the midfield runners.
“I’m really happy to make it through to Q2 again, especially as it repeats a good performance here last year,” said Bianchi. “I love this track and it’s also very special to me personally, so it is always a really nice feeling to do well here. I was a little surprised that we had such a strong qualifying, simply because the tricky conditions were the same for everyone, yet we have fared better than some of the teams further up the grid, finishing ahead of a Lotus, a Force India and a Sauber. I also made a little mistake in Turn 10, so there was even a bit more to come.
“I’m really pleased for the Team as this is a nice reward for them and I hope we can carry it through to the race now. We can’t be sure what the weather will bring tomorrow. Ideally it would be dry, but I think we are still missing a little bit of performance, so we will be do our best whatever the conditions.”
Team-mate Chilton could not copy Bianchi’s feat of making it into the second part of qualifying but it was not for the lack of trying. A lack of battery power on his quickest lap lost him some valuable time, but he was still able to comfortably out-qualify both Caterham’s.
“It was pretty tricky out there so I was quite happy with the lap as I had no battery – I used the energy on the previous lap when the tyres weren’t at their best,” said Chilton. “I was closer to Jules on the first run so without the energy problem, who knows? Maybe Q2 was possible, but then Jules pulled a mega lap out of the bag, so credit to him.
“We are still a good chunk ahead of the Caterham’s and I think we can have a really strong race. Spa is a great track so I’ll be giving it my all and I hope for a good team result tomorrow.”
Team Principal John Booth admitted the team’s decision to have a run in free practice three earlier in the day on intermediate tyres was beneficial, especially as the majority of teams did not do the same thing. He was happy to see Bianchi make it into the second part of qualifying for the second race in a row, and admitted he would prefer a dry race on Sunday.
“Overnight we hadn’t really made any significant changes, but still there was plenty of optimisation of every area to try achieve that last little bit of performance,” said Booth. “This morning we maintained the good progress that we’ve made this week and again the drivers were happy with the balance and performance of the car. The FP3 session started out wet and with the forecast of rain and the knowledge that qualifying would be important, we chose to do a run on inters. Many of the others in the field didn’t do that, however we felt it was important to have some kind of preparation before qualifying and it seems that this has paid off.
“The downpour just before qualifying made conditions difficult to call, however we got it pretty much spot-on in terms of strategy and Jules delivered an excellent lap for P14 to make it into Q2. Initially he suffered some glazing on his brakes and this did make it difficult for him on the opening laps. Unfortunately we didn’t have the tyres or time to stop for a second set, however his last lap was looking very good before we decided to abort because of some balance issues in Turn 7 and a small mistake in Turn 10.
“There has been some fairly extreme weather so far this weekend but tomorrow looks a little more ‘normal’, although for Spa that means there could still be the threat of rain in the race. Both drivers are in a good position tomorrow with Jules in P16 and Max ahead of both Caterham’s. On balance I think we favour a dry race tomorrow, as our car performance seems a little better in the dry, however we will be ready for any opportunities.”