With no real testing under its belt, and therefore no meaningful track data on which to lean, the Marussia Racing team heads to Melbourne for what promises to be a busy weekend.
The Banbury-based outfit missed all three pre-season tests with its new MR01 after failing to satisfy the FIA's new crash structure assessments, and conducted only a brief shakedown at Silverstone a week ago before the cars had to be packed up for freighting to Australia for the opening round of the 2012 F1 world championship. Despite the arduous winter, however, the entire team is relishing the opportunity to get back on track, in every sense.
“It has been a tough time for everyone, but it is situations like this that really test the mettle of a team," principal John Booth claimed, "The early years were always going to be tough for us, but I have never had any doubts about the ability of our people to ride whatever storm comes our way. It is that faith rewarded that sees us heading out to Melbourne in a rather more orderly fashion than you might expect.
"The journey is just a breather, of course, and, when we get there, we will no doubt face a challenging time building up to the race. We have not had the track time we'd hoped for with the MR01 and therefore the time it takes to iron out the teething problems that are to be expected with a new car. We take some heart from a relatively straightforward roll-out during two days of promotional running last week, but we have yet to run on the Pirelli P-Zero performance tyres and really glimpse the first signs of the potential of the package.
"Nonetheless, we're heading in the right direction again and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank every single member of our team, and our partners, for all their support and efforts. It is over to us now to do the best job possible in these first few races.”
For F1 veteran Timo Glock, who enters his third season with the team, the laps at Silverstone were a welcome opportunity to shake off cobwebs that had formed over the winter, and not really been removed by the outing in Marussia's 2011 car at Barcelona.
“I couldn't wait to try the MR01 for the first time last Monday," he confirmed, "Even though it wasn't in representative conditions, it has been a long wait to get my hands on a car that I'm hoping will be a good step forward from the past two seasons. It has been a frustrating winter for sure, but you have two choices and the only thing to do was to focus on everything we could be doing off-track to make sure we were as prepared as possible for when we did run the car.
"I've done a lot of work in the simulator and with the team in Banbury and, in terms of my personal fitness, I have been training harder than ever before. Melbourne will be a bit of a voyage into the unknown, but we have nothing to lose and I'm even more excited than usual to see how the car feels in Friday's first free practice. Albert Park is a great track and I love going there for the first race of the season. I would rather be going there with more preparation but we will do the best we can and see where we are.”
The Australian Grand Prix is also the first opportunity for rookie Charles Pic to measure himself as an F1 driver. The GP2 graduate tested intensively in Barcelona, but needs to get to grips with the MR01 as soon as the pit-lane opens on Friday morning.
“I'm ready to go racing now," the Frenchman insisted, "I have been working very hard physically and with the team, and mentally I am prepared. It is true I would have preferred to have more track time before my first grand prix, but I have been working on the simulator so we will do the best we can.
"Australia will be very special for sure and I will have a lot of support around me. I'm looking forward to getting into the routine of a race weekend and continuing to build the relationship with my engineers. The team have been a great support for me so I know I can count on them. It's my first visit to Melbourne but I have heard very good things about the track and the city. Obviously I have driven Albert Park a few times in simulation now, but I can't wait for the real thing.”