Marussia rookie Max Chilton admits that there is no timeline for him to agree on an extension to his contract with the team, although he insists that it would like to keep an unchanged line-up.
The Briton, who's signing ahead of the 2013 season was derided in some quarters, had made steady progress through his maiden campaign, and has helped Marussia take the fight to back-of-the-grid rival Caterham, but admitted on the eve of the Italian Grand Prix that he has not yet inked a deal for next season.
“My situation is the same as it's been all year,” he said, confirming that, to the best of his knowledge, there was no deadline by which to get the extension done, “I've got a one-year contract. Obviously, I'm a rookie and so is Jules [Bianchi] and we're here to learn as much as we can. All I know is the team are happy to keep both of us and I'll just keep trying to do the best job I can.”
While Bianchi grabbed the result – 13th in Malaysia – that currently puts Marussia above Caterham in the constructors' table, Chilton has shown signs of improvement throughout the campaign and insists that his focus is on each race, rather than looking long term.
“You learn a lot before you get to F1, but there's an awful lot [to learn] when you do get to F1 as well,” he pointed out, “The main thing I'm trying to do is focus on my skills, get the most out of the car and do the best job for the team.
“I think, for the last couple of races, it has been difficult for us, but we still have that tenth place in the championship, so it's key for us to get the most out of the car when we have the opportunity to get a good race result. If we can get another twelfth or 13th, that would really help us in the overall championship.
“The next few races are going to be pretty challenging. I think we've got seven after here and there's five [circuits] I haven't driven. As I said earlier, I'm still learning, but I've done half a year in F1, and you can't expect much longer to up your pace and learn. For the last few races, the pace has been a lot better, especially qualifying. We did a great team effort in Spa, so my focus is just to keep doing what I'm doing and learning. I think for the second half of the year my speed will come through more and, hopefully, we can keep that tenth place [in the constructors' table].”
Marussia CEO Graeme Lowdon admitted that, while there was no rush for the team to secure its drivers for 2014, both Chilton and Bianchi were very much under consideration.
“It's kind of this period onwards when we really start to make some key decisions,” he confirmed, “Typically, it's a lot later in the year that we make any announcements, but both drivers have done an extremely good job and, at times, under quite difficult circumstances. There's a very good harmony in the team and a good team spirit and it would be nice to maintain that but let's wait and see.”
The Italian Grand Prix weekend started positively for Chilton, as he led the 'minnow quartet' in Friday practice.