Marussia team principal John Booth believes that the Banbury-based F1 squad is as well-prepared as it can be heading to next weekend's Australian Grand Prix.
Unlike 2012, when it was forced to miss the opening pre-season test, Marussia has been ever-present at the three Spanish sessions in 2013, but that does not mean that its build-up to Melbourne has been trouble-free. Like its rivals, the team has had to deal with the usual teething troubles affecting a new car, but has also had to cope with the upheaval caused by its driver line-up.
Although Max Chilton was confirmed before Christmas, the identity of his team-mate remained in flux right to the final days of testing, with veteran Timo Glock announcing that he was leaving 'by mutual consent' in order to allow the squad to bring in a 'pay driver' to help with its budget. Luiz Razia was duly unveiled as that man, only to subsequently find that one of his backers had defaulted on payments to the team. That resulted in the Brazilian's contract being terminated and Ferrari protégé Jules Bianchi being installed in time for a couple of days of running in the MR02 at the Circuit de Catalunya.
“Overall, I think we have achieved as much preparation as possible to take us into the opening race in Melbourne,” Booth commented as the Barcelona session came to a close, “Max has a bit of everything under his belt after so much time in the car across a variety of conditions and set-ups, while Jules has done a good job in the limited amount of time he has had in the MR02. I'm not sure we could have asked any more of either of them.
“[It has been] a great job by everyone in the team, both trackside and back at base, for a very positive pre-season testing period. We've achieved 904 laps and 4003km, which is a very healthy foundation with which to begin our season.”
Bianchi's pursuit of the second seat at Force India, and the track time in testing that he was afforded by the Silverstone team, helped the Frenchman adapt quickly to his new surroundings, but there were still things that he and the team needed to work on.
“The main focus of the morning session was practice for Jules and the race team,” Booth confirmed, “The pit crew were quickly up to speed after all the practice over the winter and Jules had a good grasp of all the various procedures pretty early on, [but] it was a vital element of our pre-Melbourne preparation and, although it took two hours out of our performance programme, I am sure it will pay dividends.
“It was good to get an hour's worth of testing too, as this produced some interesting results. Initially, we struggled on the medium tyre and Jules was much happier on the soft but, nonetheless, we captured some good data as there were some reasonably significant set-up changes during the runs.”
Bianchi completed 62 laps during the final morning, posting a best time of 1min 23.167secs – around a second quicker than his team-mate, although Chilton's running was affected by cooler temperatures.
“I think it was a very positive morning for me and the team as we did a lot of work and kept improving throughout,” Bianchi confirmed, “The pit-stop work was very important and although this took away some of my time for performance work, I think it is essential for us to be fully prepared. We have maximised the one-and-a-half days of running I have had and the weather has remained good for me, so I feel happy with what we have achieved. I am ready for Melbourne!”