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Bianchi happy with smooth debut
18 March 2013
Jules Bianchi ended the 2013 F1 Australian Grand Prix weekend with the best performance of the backmarker teams, finishing a lap ahead of his team mate Max Chilton and both Caterham drivers to.
"I am very happy with my race today and really can't imagine a better start to my first season of F1," said the Frenchman, the last of the 2013 driver line-up to be confirmed after Marussia had to release Luiz Razia because of a key sponsor not coming up with the finances.
Give that he had minimal time to get used to the MR02 in just a day and a half of pre-season testing, his assured drive in Melbourne was even more impressive.
"I felt very calm as I looked forward to this moment," he said. "Generally everything went very smoothly in the race and we worked our way through the tyre management issues as well as we could in order to maximise the possibilities.
"We have not had the luxury of time so I would like to thanks my engineers, car crew and the whole team for helping me to be as prepared as possible and for a great job today," he added. "It would seem that the team have made a big step over the winter and it is very nice to see them reacting positively to this."
"Jules drove a fantastic race and quickly left the Caterhams in his wake to focus on the midfield pack in front," said team principal John Booth, who added that the team had underestimated the rate of tyre degradation on the initial supersofts which had left Bianchi too far off the back of Valtteri Bottas in the Williams and Esteban Gutierrez in the Sauber on this occasion.
"We should certainly never underestimate the midfield teams, however I think we've shown today that they are realistically within striking distance," said Booth, who was in a buoyant mood as the team prepared to leave Australia for next weekend's second Grand Prix of the year in Malaysia.
"We leave Melbourne satisfied that we have definitely progressed over the winter," he agreed. "Generally we are pleased with our début race with the MR02 and happy that the positive signs from pre-season testing were an accurate reflection of the true performance level of our early package," he added.
Marussia are fielding the least experienced driver line-up in the F1 paddock, with Bianchi's team mate Max Chilton also facing a brave new world in F1 after stepping up from the GP2 feeder series over the winter.
"I am happy with my F1 début," said the British driver. "Although it was less than straightforward, it's good to get it under my belt and to know where we stand relative to the competition."
Chilton was one of the first to visit pit lane on Sunday afternoon, after an encounter with the Caterham driver who would prove to be his nemesis throughout the Melbourne race.
"The coming-together with van der Garde early in the race damaged my front wing, which meant I had to stop for a wing change," he explained. "This put me back out on track such that I hit the blue flag period and it was a bit of a battle to recover the ground I lost.
"I had a really good fight with van der Garde and closed the gap enough to be able to pass him," he continued. "From there I was able to demonstrate more of my true pace and I was posting laps around three seconds faster than him."
Overall Chilton was happy with his performance and delighted to be able to bring the car home in one piece without suffering from a retirement.
"Although the race had its frustrations, I feel like I've learned a lot that I perhaps wouldn't have learned otherwise," he said. "That will be useful experience over the next few races.
"I'm looking forward to Malaysia now, so I can roll all that back into my racing and be able to take the fight to the midfield pack."
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