The Marussia team has confirmed the widely-expected news that reserve driver Max Chilton will be given the chance to take part in a Friday free practice session before the end of the 2012 F1 season.
The announcement came as preparations got underway for Sunday's Indian Grand Prix, but Chilton will have to wait another week, until the Abu Dhabi round, for his chance to take part in an F1 weekend for the first time, as the team took the sensible option of fielding the Briton at a circuit he already knows well from his three seasons in the GP2 Series.
The 21-year old, who finished fourth overall in this year's feeder series standings, will use the #25 car normally campaigned by rookie Charles Pic, and run alongside veteran Timo Glock for the opening 90-minute session at Yas Marina, before Pic returns for the afternoon session.
“I feel very proud to be entrusted with this opportunity by the Marussia F1 team,” Chilton, who has gained previous F1 experience from demonstration runs with the Banbury-based team, as well as outings with both Marussia and Force India in young driver tests at both Yas Marina and Silverstone.
“As part of the this year's Young Driver Programme, I got to know the team very well but, over the last two race weekends, as reserve driver, I feel like I have a proper role and have learned so much about the F1 environment in a very short space of time.
“[The Friday run] is the next step in the process of proving my potential and another important notch for me personally in terms of my ultimate goals. As for next Friday, the 90 minutes of FP1 will fly by so quickly that it's a real bonus to be testing the car at a circuit I know well. It means I can get up to speed straight away and focus on delivering some proper set-up and aero evaluation data for the team to help during the rest of the weekend.
“My thanks to everyone at the Marussia team for the faith they have shown in me so far and I will now concentrate my efforts on keeping my excitement in check and ensuring I make the most of this fantastic opportunity!”
Since his promotion to official reserve status at the Japanese Grand Prix three weeks ago, Chilton has been integral to the team's track walks, engineering meetings and driver debriefs to ensure he is sufficiently well prepared in the event that he is required to substitute for one of the race drivers, and team principal John Booth explains that the chance to run in free practice is a further extension of that race weekend preparation. He is expected to concentrate on set-up and aerodynamic testing as well as furthering his experience of the car.
“We are delighted to provide this opportunity as it serves two important functions for us,” Booth revealed, “First of all, in the position of reserve driver, Max needs to be as prepared as possible should he be required to substitute for either race driver in the remaining races of the 2012 season. Secondly, as part of our ongoing assessment of the next generation of racing talent, we are interested to see how Max has progressed since we first put him in the car at our Young Driver Test at Silverstone in the summer.