Max Chilton may not have had an 'ideal' start to the 2014 F1 campaign, but he managed to extend his unbroken record of getting his car to the chequered flag and was generally positive as he prepared to depart Melbourne for Malaysia.
The Briton, who finished each of the 19 races he started in his debut season with the Marussia team, was forced to start from the pit-lane after his car refused to get away from the grid as the rest of the field began the formation lap. Stuck in gear and with its engine dead, the MR03 had to be pushed back to the garage, where the team was able to reset the system and resolve the issue.
Despite trailing the field initially, a first corner accident and later safety car to clear debris from Valtteri Bottas' brush with the wall allowed the Briton to make up some of the lost ground. He went on to finish 14th as cars ahead of him dropped out, and was content with his day's work.
“The [start] wasn't ideal and, in most circumstances, that would have ruined our race but, today, it didn't really affect us,” he confirmed to Crash.net, “We had a little battle with [Marcus] Ericsson for about 20 laps, where it was quite close between the cars. To me, it looked like we were better on fresher tyres with the temperature up, but then they were better towards the end of the stint.
“We did catch them but, just as we did, he had an issue and pulled over and, from then on, [team-mate Jules Bianchi and I] were both last. Jules was a few laps behind me, so we just towed each other around until I got the call to bring the car home, which we always tend to do.”
Having made a habit of coming in further down the order in the era of high reliability that marked his first year in F1, Chilton was delighted to come home as high as 14th in Australia, remarking that similar circumstances, allied to fewer issues in the Marussia camp, could stand the team in good stead at round two in Malaysia.
“14th is pretty good for us - last year, that's what I got in Monaco and it's only one [place] off what secured us tenth place [in the constructors' championship],” he pointed out, “It could be our 'tenth place' again. It wasn't perfect, but we walk away with a smile on our face.”
Instead of the usual back-to-back start to the season, the teams now have two weeks to prepare for Sepang, and Chilton is heading there in a positive frame of mind, despite the new-look F1 proving to be a steep learning curve for all involved.
“We've learned that this year is incredibly technical,” he confessed, “There's more to be focused on getting time from the ERS and fuel system than there is from set-up work. That might not be for the whole year but, at the moment, set-up is going to find you maybe two or three tenths, where ERS - if you're allowed to use it - more often than not will earn you a second-and-a-half. Still, it's hard to compare yourself to other teams because, even if you know you're on the same fuel load as them, it's difficult to know much power they're getting, so that's the biggest difference so far.
“Balance-wise, the car's quite nice. We're lacking a bit of speed – that's pretty obvious - but it's a step forward from last year.
“I like being positive – there's no point being down and there were a few positives [to take from Melbourne]. Malaysia is always an interesting race and, obviously, that's where we got 13th last year with Jules, so that does mean there's a good chance of us getting a good result again. We've just got to make sure we're on top of Caterham really. I'm quite looking forward to it.”