Max Chilton has admitted that heading into his second season of F1 racing is giving him as many chills as approaching his debut with Marussia in 2013.

The Briton established a new finishing record after seeing the chequered flag in each of the 19 races that comprised his first year in the sport, but had to wait until January before being confirmed as Jules Bianchi's team-mate at Marussia for 2014.

Chilton was given the task of debuting the team's new MR03 in pre-season testing in Spain but, since then, Marussia - like many of its rivals - has endured a trying time as its attempts to fettle the car for its first race, on the streets of Melbourne's Albert Park, next weekend. Twelve days of preparation have provided little in the way of certainty as to how well each of the teams can expect to fare as a consequence of this year's dramatic regulation changes, and Chilton remains optimistic that he and Bianchi can cause an upset.

"I didn't think much could come close to the feeling I had making my grand prix debut last season, but I'm every bit as excited one year on as we head to Australia for the first round of the championship," he admitted, "There have been some very positive signs in testing, which lead us to believe that we can have a good season. Until we get through the first race, it's difficult to expand on that, but the performance is there and we haven't even scratched the surface yet.

"Of course, it would be great if we could match last year's fantastic reliability record, but that is likely to be a much bigger task this season. Personally, I'm ready to get my teeth into the races. I'm entering my second season, so I have my own goals as a driver, but what matters most is working together as a team to rise to the challenge as this will be a tough but exciting year."

Team principal John Booth is a little more guarded in his optimism, particularly after a tough couple of tests in Bahrain left Marussia with just over 1000 miles of running compared to the 3000+ racked up by Mercedes and Williams, but feels there is sufficient reason to believe that the team can take a step forward in 2014.

"Although we did not meet our mileage target in pre-season testing, the positive work we did achieve, particularly last week in Bahrain, has been extremely valuable in terms of validating our calculations for the MR03 and finalising our specification for Melbourne," he explained, "We are in good shape, both in terms of the car and as a maturing racing operation, and we head to Australia with cautious optimism.

"The opening round in particular, but also the season per se, is such an unknown quantity that it would be futile to try to predict an outcome, so our focus will be solely on getting the most out of our package on its racing debut. We have had some positive indications for reliability, but the acid test will be our first full race, which is the primary target for next Sunday.

With the likes of world champion Red Bull struggling for both pace and reliability, 2013 frontrunner Lotus trailing some 200 miles behind Marussia in terms of pre-season running and much of the field still concerned by unforeseen problems that arose during testing, Booth is aware that the opening rounds in Melbourne and Malaysia could be key for Marussia.

"The first few races are the ones where opportunity is likely to knock, so we will be looking to ensure we are prepared for every eventuality," he concluded, "We are fortunate to have two very talented and motivated drivers, and we know they will be helping us to push every step of the way. In a season so full of unknowns, perhaps the only real certainty for the opening round is that the Australian Grand Prix always delivers spectacular racing and this year we are likely to see that taken to another level."



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