Jules Bianchi believes Marussia have made 'clear progress' since the first two races in Australia and Malaysia.
Speaking after practice for the F1 2013 Chinese Grand Prix on Friday, the Frenchman added that the updates brought to the Shanghai International Circuit are definitely a step forward and once again he was the top 'new' team runner. He also ended FP2 just 0.452 seconds off Pastor Maldonado's Williams as the Banbury-based outfit continues to try and drag itself up the order.
“It has been a good day today and it is very pleasing to see clear progress since the first two races, not just in terms of the results, but the way we have revised our working methods to ensure we get the best out of the package,” he remarked.
“It seemed a long time since I was last in the car but straight away I can feel the benefit of the development work which has been carried out in the break, so this is a nice feeling as we know we have to keep pushing hard in the early part of the season in particular.
“This morning the track was very dirty and it was quite difficult in places, but it wasn't so long before I was up to speed and by the end of the day the conditions were improving. Generally a good day and I am happy so far.”
Team-mate Tom Chilton meanwhile had a more troubled day and despite a strong start, which saw him finished FP1 just 0.090 seconds off the sister car, he only got to do 5 laps in FP2 due to engine issues.
“For a day that started so positively this morning, it is disappointing to have suffered such a setback in the afternoon session,” lamented the Brit. “This morning I was really pleased with the car balance and I could feel the benefit of the updates we have here. I was less than a tenth from Jules after FP1 and feeling that we had a nice rhythm going for FP2. Unfortunately that was short-lived as I'd completed just four laps before the engine cut to protect itself and I had to pull over on track.
“I have to pay credit to the guys for turning the car around so quickly to try to get me out again. Clearly we hadn't quite got the full measure of the problem, but it was a great effort nonetheless. Tomorrow will be quite a challenge so a big night ahead with the engineers comparing data and doing everything we can to hit the ground running for FP3 ready for qualifying.”
“Definitely a day of mixed emotions,” Marussia team principal, John Booth summed-up. “This morning, we were pleased to see that with a revised run programme we managed to get the best out of the tyres and this enabled both drivers to get up to speed with the circuit quickly and the engineers to get some good early data on the Medium tyre. Both drivers identified similar balance problems after FP1 and the set-ups were tuned for FP2 accordingly.
“Jules was able to get the most out of his FP2 programme and developed the set-up further in the session, getting a good mix of qualifying and race fuel running completed. Overall we were particularly pleased with his progress and that of the car in the session and the development parts we have brought appear to be working well.
“With Max I'm afraid we had a less than ideal FP2 session. We have to apologise to Max as he has missed some very valuable running this afternoon after such a positive start this morning.
“Unfortunately it looks like we have had an engine issue which was killed by a protection strategy in the first run and whilst we believed we had fixed the issue at the end of the session it appears to have re-appeared in what was Max's final run.”