5 October 2013
Korean Grand Prix: Bianchi penalty shuffles back row
Jules Bianchi handed three-place penalty for blocking in Q1, but doesn't have that far to drop in the Marussia-Caterham battle in Korea.
Marussia team-mates Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton will swap places on the back row of the grid ahead of Sunday's Korean Grand Prix after the Frenchman was handed a penalty for blocking Force India's Paul di Resta in qualifying.
Unable to see off the challenge of Caterham in the battle for 'division three' honours at the back of the field, Bianchi and Chilton were set to fill places 21 and 22 on the grid after the Frenchman won their private battle by a little over a tenth of a second. However, after di Resta's complaint that he had been impeded by the lead Marussia, the stewards felt obliged to sanction Bianchi, handing down a three-place penalty ahead of the race.
Aware, perhaps, that the punishment had little effect on the Frenchman's prospects for the Yeongam event, the officials tacked on a reprimand for the offence, taking Bianchi to the fringe of a greater penalty should he err again. Red Bull rival Mark Webber will feel the force of a ten-place penalty this weekend, having picked his third reprimand of the year for hitching a lift back to the pits on Fernando Alonso's Ferrari in Singapore….
"The driver of car #22 was given a radio warning of the approach of car #14 but decided to stay on line to start his own flying lap," the stewards explained in an official statement after the session, "Car #22 could have safely allowed car #14 to pass before starting his flying lap."
The penalty, while not terminal for Bianchi, took the gloss off a better performance for the Marussia team as both drivers closed the gap to their immediate rivals and reported good progress on improving both the balance and race pace of the MR02.
“We seem to be doing a better job of sticking with the Caterhams now and, although the gap was closer in this morning's free practice session, I hope we can have a better fight with them tomorrow, despite the setback of the grid penalty,” Bianchi noted, “We've done a good job of improving the car balance and we didn't get enough of an opportunity to really show that in qualifying, but I do feel more confident for the race now.”
“The first runs [in qualifying] were really encouraging and good traffic and clear out laps helped to put the drivers right with the Caterhams,” team boss John Booth commented, “Unfortunately the traffic at the end of the Q1 session was quite difficult to manage. We didn't get the best of it and, therefore, didn't quite gain what we had hoped on our second runs. Overall, though, it's clear to see that we have made good steps since Budapest to be back in contention with the our nearest competitors and our promising race pace on Friday means that we should be able to race them tomorrow.”
Caterham, meanwhile, will occupy row ten of the grid, with Charles Pic getting the better of team-mate Giedo van der Garde in both FP3 and, by just 0.007secs, in qualifying.
“We made some changes to the car overnight and the balance was better in FP3,” Pic, who also picked up his second reprimand of the season on Friday, commented, “In qualifying, we went for two runs on the supersofts, going out quite late into the session. The first run was okay, but there was definitely time to be found which I managed to do on the second run, finishing up 19th and again clear of our nearest competitors.
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