Marussia team principal John Booth says the Anglo-Russian team will continue to work hard to take the fight to the midfield teams on the back of an impressive start to the new F1 season in Australia.
Despite the late nature of his deal to join the team, Jules Bianchi managed to finish just a lap behind winner Kimi Raikkonen
in Melbourne and posted a fastest lap less than a tenth of a second slower than champion Sebastian Vettel.
On the back of Bianchi's performance, Marussia will now seek to try and close the gap to the midfield teams as the season goes on, with Booth insisting it was important for the team to work hard as it works towards a 'target realistically within reach'.
“The out-of-the-box reliability and performance of the MR02 has been very pleasing to see, especially as the car is quite a significant evolution of the MR01 and we have had to make the necessary modifications to accommodate KERS for this season,” he said. “Having said that, one race does not make a season and we will need to work hard, particularly in these early races, to continue to take the fight to the midfield, which we have shown to be a target realistically within reach. Up and down the field, every team will be aiming to make progress and keep developing their package, so we need to maintain our current momentum.”
Booth admitted that the back-to-back nature of the opening rounds meant there would be no major changes to the MR02, with the focus firmly on making the most of the package available before further upgrades are introduced.
“Given the tight turnaround between these two races, there won't be any significant changes to the car,” he said. “Instead, we'll be able to look at optimising the set-up for this circuit and gathering more data to send back home in real-time, so our technical team can start working on the next batch of developments for rounds three and four.
“This weekend is a tough one for team and drivers given the challenges posed by the heat and humidity, but we're hopeful of a similarly positive showing on the racetrack.”
Bianchi himself said he was looking forward to the challenge of racing at Sepang this weekend and admitted there were improvements he was looking to make despite his encouraging debut performance.
“It has been nice to take a couple of days in Australia to really absorb the experience of my first Formula 1
race last weekend,” he said. “There were quite a lot of new things to be faced with, including driving a race of that distance for the first time and bringing together everything that I had learned in the days before. This week I have had the chance to think everything through - what I have learned and where I need to go from here. I had a good debrief with my engineering team and I feel very comfortable, so now I start to think about Malaysia.
“I've done some work in the simulator and I think Sepang is a circuit I'm going to enjoy. I know the challenge it brings in terms of the heat and humidity, so I'm prepared for that. Although my debut went well, there are some areas that I need to work on and where I can improve – as you would expect – so this race we will have a little more time and experience to think about what we need to do to keep pushing forward. I'm hoping for another good performance in the race on Sunday of course.”