Timo Glock may not go to Bahrain expecting to win round four of the F1 world championship, but victories are relative when you're at the wrong end of the grid, and the German will have his own targets to achieve in search of success.
While the third iteration Marussia car has yet to show the pace to worry the likes of McLaren, its reliability is much improved over the team's first two years, thanks in part to its technical relationship with the Woking squad. Able to get more mileage under its belt, Marussia is thus able to focus on other aspects of its package, and Glock firmly believes that it is making progress relative to immediate rivals Caterham and HRT.
"If you do 200kms of testing before the first race, every lap, every kilometre you do is like a learning process," he conceded, reflecting on the fact that the MR01 had just two 'promotional' days in which to display any flaws, "I'm quite happy with the past races, [as] I think we've closed the gap quite significantly. [At the] last qualifying, we were three seconds behind; [at the] first race, we had five-and-a-half seconds, so there's a clear step forward and that's good."
The German is experienced enough, however, to realise that nothing stands still in F1, and next month's Mugello test could easily see the gap expand again as much as contract further.
"I hope we can continue like this in terms of improvements, but it will be difficult," he conceded, "[For the] European season, everyone comes with new updates, so we just have to work hard and continue the process we're doing at the moment. It would be great to have, at every race, a step like we had in China, so we have to see what we can do. We have some little parts here, which could improve the car again, so we're looking forward to it. I think we have a good baseline to really catch-up."
Glock confirmed that Marussia, too, would have development parts for the European campaign, but admitted that it was the ongoing work on the car that would matter most.
"We're working on it," he noted, "It's not definite how much we will get out of it but, at the moment, we're getting new parts every race. If that continues, I don't care how big the update is in Barcelona [for the Spanish GP]. If you can keep it up through the whole year, that's more important.
Marussia team principal John Booth echoed Glock's comments regarding the progress made in China last weekend, despite the results sheets still showing the Banbury-based team languishing towards the bottom.
“Reading the timesheets at the end of the past few races, it is easy to focus on position and overlook the fairly significant progress we've made in such a short space of time," Booth concluded, "Going into last weekend's race in China, we'd eaten into the gap to our immediate competitors by 0.8secs since Malaysia. Combined with the 0.6secs decrease we'd seen between the first two races, that means we've found almost 1.5secs of lap time in the first three races which, considering the challenges we faced with our late start, is very pleasing to all of us. It is still very early in the season of course, but it is nice to see that we are heading in a good development direction.”