Max Chilton finally makes his F1 race weekend debut with Marussia during Friday's free practice sessions at Yas Marina, and insists that he has what it takes to become a full-time member of the grand prix grid - even if it's not his father's money.
The general perception of the 21-year old is that he has benefited greatly from an affluent family, and a generous father who, as vice chairman of insurance giant Aon, has been able to pay for not just Max, but also brother Tom, to indulge their love of motorsport to the highest level. While elder sibling Tom has concentrated on touring cars and now plies his trade for Team Aon in the WTCC, Max has remained loyal to single-seaters and, after three years in the proving ground of GP2, is now poised on the brink of joining Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Paul di Resta in the top flight.
The youngster certainly does not lack the ability to race, having claimed two wins for Carlin in this year's GP2 Series, en route
to claiming fourth overall in the standings, but the lingering smell of family cash refuses to disappear, even if Chilton himself insists that it will not
be his father bankrolling any F1 graduation.
“People look at it and say 'you've got the money to do it',” he told Britain's Daily Telegraph
on the eve of his full Marussia debut, "but my dad has always said 'I'll get you to as high as I can, but F1 I can't do'.
"I'm sure he could stretch and do it, but he doesn't want to. Instead, he's managed to find two sponsors. They are British, which is good, so we could have four Brits on the grid next year and two more British sponsors. It's not silly money - and I haven't got a seat yet - but my family don't have to spend a penny. Hopefully people will learn that it's not from the family, it's from sponsors.”
Marussia appears to be the logical destination for Chilton's graduation, the Briton having been appointed as the team's official reserve at the Japanese Grand Prix, and his outing in Friday's first session at Yas Marina will provide additional experience of the both team and car as he builds on previous runs at young driver tests and exhibition days. The 90-minute session, however, will be the first time that Chilton finds himself on track with the likes of Button, Hamilton, Michael Schumacher, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel.
“It's going to be weird being on track at the same time as [Schumacher],” he admitted, pointing out that he was a newborn at the time the German made his F1 debut in 1991, “I think he is the most daunting [opponent], although there are probably a few more I would rather not get in the way of because of the way they would react.
“Over the last two years, I have really grown in confidence and I have shown I have got the speed. It's nerve-racking, but you can only step up to F1 if you feel ready in yourself.”