Despite listing Alexander Rossi on the official entry list for the Russian Grand Prix, the Marussia F1 Team will run with a solitary car for Max Chilton as the team continues to come to terms with the serious injury suffered by Jules Bianchi in the Japanese Grand Prix last weekend.
A Marussia statement said the second car will remain built and ready to race but will remain in Bianchi’s side of the garage for the duration of the event as tribute to the Frenchman who remains in intensive care in a Japanese Hospital.
“We will run a single car for the duration of the forthcoming Grand Prix weekend in Sochi, out of respect for our driver Jules Bianchi, who remains in hospital in Yokkaichi, Japan, in a critical but stable condition,” said the Marussia statement.
“We have written to the Stewards of the Meeting to inform them that we have withdrawn our second car. Notwithstanding the presence in Sochi of Alexander Rossi, the nominated Official Reserve Driver for the 2014 Russian Grand Prix, the Team feels strongly that fielding a single car, that of driver number 4, Max Chilton, is the appropriate course of action under the difficult circumstances of the weekend.
“Jules’ car crew have built a second car, which has been scrutineered and is ready to race, and this will remain on his side of the garage throughout the weekend. In support of Jules and his family, the Team and its cars will carry the familiar #JB17 graphic, to ensure that, although Jules is not with us in Sochi this weekend, he is, nonetheless, racing on with the Marussia F1 Team.”
The sole representative for the weekend in Sochi Max Chilton said the whole weekend will be difficult and emotional for the team, and admits his own personal devastation at Bianchi’s injuries.
“I don’t know how to put into words how truly devastated I am by what has happened to Jules,” said Chilton. “The support from the F1 family has been incredible & all we can do is be there to support Jules’ family at this difficult time. It is going to be a very emotional weekend for the whole Team, but we will try to get through it and keep praying for Jules.”
Marussia Sporting Director Graeme Lowdon has thanked the fans from around the world for the support and best wishes since Bianchi’s accident,
“It has been a very, very difficult time, but it has also been a time that reminded us of how much support there is for people within this sport,” said Lowdon. “Jules is an exceptional F1 driver, but he is also an exceptional human being. I don’t know a single human being who doesn’t like him.
“You wouldn’t wish that accident on anybody, but certainly Jules has so many friends that it has hit home really hard to a lot of people.
“John [Booth, team principal] has remained in Japan to offer what support he can. None of us are medical people so we cannot help in that area, but we can provide another form of support, which we hope helps the really difficult time.
“From a team point of view we want to thank everyone who has provided support – especially the fans.”
Talking about the decision to only run with Chilton in Russia, Lowdon insisted it was not an easy decision to make, and it was out of a mark of respect for Bianchi and his family that the second car was withdrawn.
“It was a difficult decision,” insisted Lowdon. “The main thing we wanted was to do something useful and be supportive as much as we can for Jules and Jules’ family.
“We thought that the right thing to do was to obviously come here, take part in the event, but as a mark of support to Jules and mark of respect to his mum and dad and to Jules’ family, we would withdraw the second car.”
Chilton finished twentieth fastest on the opening day in Russia, and hopes to improve his position on Saturday as the team continue in their close on-track battle with Caterham.
“Obviously a very difficult day for everyone in the Team, and one in which we have had to dig deep in order to focus on the race weekend ahead,” said Chilton. “In terms of the Free Practice sessions, we have had a productive day from a technical set-up and track learning perspective.
“The new circuit here is impressive; I like the fast-flowing high-speed sections and the slow-speed technical challenges. This evening will give us a chance to reflect on the day a little more and hopefully we will come back stronger still tomorrow.”