Marussia could be in a position to reveal its second driver during this week's Jerez F1 group test, according to team principal John Booth.
Despite rumours linking several hopefuls to the seat alongside rookie Max Chilton – vacated when Timo Glock parted company with the team a couple of weeks ago – no second driver was announced when Marussia unveiled its 2013 challenger, the MR02, in the Jerez pit-lane on Tuesday (5 February), and Booth admitted that talks were still ongoing.
Vitaly Petrov, Bruno Senna and Luiz Razia were among the supposed frontrunners for the seat, each able to bring a useful amount of sponsorship to a team that, despite professing to being on a sound financial footing, split with Glock because it needed to pay him rather than being paid by the backers of a younger, less experienced, driver. Razia emerged as the favourite to partner Chilton when his Brazilian website carried a story quoting his delight at being handed the 'fulfilment of a dream' by the Banbury-based team, but Booth would only confirm that the GP2 Series runner-up was among the candidates.
"That talking to the media is a dangerous thing, isn't it?" he told Reuters
, "Somebody put something on [the internet] and it's fact straight away. We're talking to him…."
There is a clear desire to wrap the negotiations up as soon as possible, with Booth admitting that installing a second driver before the end of the current four-day test in southern Spain would be ideal.
"Hopefully, [it will be sorted] this week," he continued, "I can't see Max doing four days around Jerez for his first proper test. It would be a tough call on him."
Petrov would appear to be an outsider for the seat, following reports that his F1 hopes had faded considerably since erstwhile employer Caterham had opted for rookie Giedo van der Garde to partner Charles Pic this season. Senna, meanwhile, continues to be linked to Force India after Paul di Resta apparently tweeted a welcome to the Brazilian ahead of the team's launch last Friday. Those messages were swiftly removed, but continue to cast some doubt on beliefs that Force India is heading in Jules Bianchi's direction.
Booth, meanwhile, concedes that, while Glock's departure was not ideal for a team still looking to close the gap on the midfield runners, it helped emphasise the importance of having a sound financial platform on which to operate.
"I think our position favours us quite strongly," he explained, "We are a team with 180 people and paying that wage bill every month is nowhere near as difficult as paying 500 every month. We are very compact and with a sound business plan.
"It's not an easy game to be in Formula One. We've been three and a half years now and we've not had a single easy day. But we believe we have a sustainable business plan and we're comfortable with where we are."
Once again, Marussia expects to be fighting with Caterham in 2013, and has extra incentive to succeed after seeing the Leafield equipe
snatch the lucrative tenth spot in last year's constructors' standings at the final round in Brazil. Both teams will have all-new line-ups, with former Marussia driver Pic being joined by van der Garde at Caterham, leaving Petrov and Heikki Kovalainen on the sidelines.