If Kimi Raikkonen deserved praise for driving much of the season without being paid by Lotus, then Marussia surely is owed similar credit.
For it wasn’t until the end of October that the sport’s commercial owners agreed terms with F1’s smallest team, thereby giving them the chance to receive financial reward for their efforts.
It was a good thing they did as well, for Marussia finally broke into the top ten in the championship this year. A similar result next year would earn them a considerable windfall, though probably not as much as FOM’s favourite team gets just for showing up.
“It was a very strange situation when most of the teams in Formula One ?óÔé¼ÔÇ£ in fact, all of the teams in Formula One ?óÔé¼ÔÇ£ had an agreement with the commercial rights holder, apart from our team,” said team president Graeme Lowden, who explained how it compromised their business efforts.
|Best race result (number)||13 (1)|
|Best grid position (number)||15 (1)|
|Non-finishes (mechanical/other)||3 (2/1)|
|Laps completed (% of total)||2,101 (92.56%)|
|Laps led (% of total)||0 (0%)|
|Championship position (2012)||10 (11)|
|Championship points (2012)||0 (0)|
|Pit stop performance ranking||9|
“It quite clearly would lead to questions when we?óÔé¼Ôäóre looking at potential partners and sponsors for the future. Probably the biggest thing is that external perception in a way. We?óÔé¼Ôäóre perceived to be on the same grid, in the same pit lane as every other team now and it?óÔé¼Ôäós just removed some of that uncertainty and allows us to focus on what we should be focusing on, which is going racing.”
On the track Marussia finally put one over fellow 2010 debutants Caterham (both having changed names since then). But team principal John Booth was generous enough to admit their rivals held the upper hand for “a large spell in the middle of the year”.
In that respect Marussia were fortunate Caterham didn’t get the chance to claim the single 13th place which would have reversed their positions. But Marussia were in front when it mattered – specifically in Malaysia, where Jules Bianchi came home over half a minute clear of the green cars having passed and pulled away from both of them.
Bianchi was a fortunate find for the team, whose driver plans had been thrown into disarray by a pre-season cash shortfall. That led them to jettison the experienced Timo Glock and briefly hire 2012 GP2 runner-up Luiz Razia. When his backing failed to materialise Ferrari Develop Driver Bianchi got the call-up.
With another rookie, Max Chilton, in the second car, Marussia’s ultimate result of finishing ahead of Caterham shines a little bit more brightly. Bianchi was decisively quicker than Chilton but both were dependable enough to keep bringing the car home.
This was particularly true of Chilton who, aided by unfailing reliability from his car and Cosworth engine, achieved the remarkable feat of finishing all 19 races in his debut season. Thanks to his and Bianchi’s efforts Marussia even completed two more racing laps than Ferrari over the course of the year.
The memory of losing tenth place to Caterham with half-a-dozen laps to go last year kept Marussia from taking anything for granted until the chequered flag fell at Interlagos. But with an eye turned to next year’s regulations overhaul, developments for the MR02 quickly dried up, making for a tense end to the championship.
“The last update we brought to the car of any significance was Barcelona,” said Booth, “so it?óÔé¼Ôäós been a long old season hanging on to that tenth place and it?óÔé¼Ôäós been pretty nerve-wracking to be truthful.”
“We?óÔé¼Ôäóve brought some small improvements and we?óÔé¼Ôäóve worked very hard at optimising what we have. I think we have gone forward but it would have been better to have two or three large upgrades through the season.
“But we are the smallest team and to build a 2014 car that has to be on the track in Jerez in January was a big feat for us and we?óÔé¼Ôäóve had to concentrate on that very hard.”
The team can look to the year ahead with a measure of confidence having already inked deals to retain Bianchi and use Ferrari’s V6 turbo and energy recovery systems next year. But the loss of technical consultant Pat Symonds to Williams midway through the season can only be a setback.
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Images ?é?® Marussia