Max Chilton may be only 17 still, but he is something of a veteran in British F3 terms as he gets set to enter his third campaign in the championship in 2009. He is hoping that it is just such a combination that will guide him to title glory.
Following his rookie season in the Cooper Tires British F3 International Series back in 2007 – becoming the youngest driver ever to compete in the championship when he made his debut on his 16th birthday at Donington Park – the Surrey-born ace switched to Hitech Racing in 2008, where he would take a brace of rostrum finishes, two pole positions and a fastest lap en route
to tenth spot in the final drivers' standings.
For 2009 he has moved again, to established front-runners Carlin Motorsport, where he will team up with Oliver Oakes, Daniel Ricciardo and Henry Arundel. He is optimistic that, together, the quartet will be able to drive the defending multiple championship-winning outfit to the laurels once again.
“That's what I like to hear,” he joked in an interview with Crash.net Radio
, when suggested that he now possesses the perfect blend of youth and experience. “Hopefully that will be the best mix to be champion! I've got a good car behind me and a good team, and I've got enough experience now compared to quite a lot of people on the grid, so there's no reason why I shouldn't be winning races.
“Moving from Hitech to Carlin is not a massive difference – every team's a team – but with Carlin you've got a lot more drivers compared to Hitech, so you've got more data and they've got more knowledge, because they've been doing it for such a long time. It's great to be with such a well-known team and have such good engineers behind me.
“[Having four drivers in the team] really does help; I think testing has shown that. At Silverstone we were probably two tenths off each other to begin with, but by the end of the test all four of us were within the same tenth bracket. I think looking at the data we all picked up on where each other was quicker, and it showed that we got the maximum out of the car because that's what all four of us could do.
“It's a very friendly atmosphere. I'm sure on the track it will be a different thing, but we'll play safe and hopefully won't have any incidents.”
One unknown for Carlin this year is the fact that the Hampshire-based squad has changed over from Mercedes engines to Volkswagen powerplants – with the German manufacturer faring well on the continent, but as yet unproven on British soil. Chilton is confident there will be no undue concerns – and, indeed, that VW will ultimately emerge with the upper hand over its Stuttgart rival.
“It's a big jump to jump into a championship,” acknowledged the brother of British Touring Car Championship star Tom Chilton, “but I think they've got a great engine there straightaway, and it's quick. I know they raced it last year in the Euroseries, but still it's good to be at the top of the times straightaway. It's only going to get better too – it's not going to get worse – and I think it's going to be stronger than the Merc by the end of the year.
“I thought the main opposition was going to be Fortec with [Riki] Christodoulou, but it looks like Raikkonen actually this year will be strong with [Carlos] Huertas, which is surprising, but good on them. They're probably going to be the main competition.
“I think my chances of winning the championship are very strong – hopefully I can make it nine [places better than in 2008]. If I don't it would be a shame, because I've got the car to do it so hopefully so can I.”