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Marussia's Bianchi wins first day battle at the back

15 March 2013

Jules Bianchi might have the distinction of being the last driver signing confirmed for the 2013 F1 season, but he's started his new job in fine form by being the fastest of the Marussia and Caterham drivers battling it out at the back of the grid.

Bianchi was faster than his Marussia team mate Max Chilton and both Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde in the Caterham cars in both Free Practice 1 and Free Practice 2 on Friday at Albert Park in Melbourne, Australia. He was the only one of the four to break the 90s barrier, finally topping out with a lap of 1:29.696s in the later session.

“It has been a very good first practice for the team and for me, so I am quite happy given that it is only my third day in the car," said the Frenchman. "I have been looking forward to this day for quite a long time and it really worked out well I think.

"It is very encouraging to know that while we have a good basis today, there is a lot more to come," he added. "The car is performing well but we have quite a lot of understeer and we need to improve this."

It's Bianchi's first taste of the Australian GP circuit, and he enjoyed what he'd experienced so far. "I like it a lot. It takes a bit of getting used to at first, but once you are up to speed it's an amazing lap and now I can't wait to do some more tomorrow."

Learning the Melbourne circuit was certainly top of Max Chilton's to-do list on Friday, as the Briton embarked on his first-ever Grand Prix weekend in F1.

“Our objective today was to learn the Albert Park track as quickly as possible and then start to gather plenty of information with the car and the tyres," he said. "Albert Park is an amazing circuit and I've loved every second of driving it so far. Tomorrow will be another big milestone in my debut weekend with my first Formula 1 qualifying and I'm very excited about that."

Somewhat less happy with the way things ended up was Giedo van der Garde, who ended the session with his Caterham beached in the gravel.

"On the first run I had some understeer that we dialled out for the second run," he explained. "But unfortunately I have a bit of rear locking as I went into T3 and went into the gravel. The anti-stall kicked in before I could get the car back out and that was the end of my afternoon."

His team mate Charles Pic - who spent last year at Marussia - had a rather more uneventful race weekend debut for his new squad on Friday, which suited him just fine.

"For our first full day of running that was okay," he said. "We definitely have work to do to get where we want to be and we knew where we'd be relative to the cars around us for the early part of the season, so there's been no real surprises today."

No surprises - and no drama - is no bad thing for the first day of track action of the 2013 season. But Caterham will need to find some additional speed on Saturday if they're to avoid being outshone by Marussia in the battle of the back row starters for Sunday's grid.


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