Tail-enders no longer, jubilant Marussia marked their first points in Formula 1 in Monaco with a champagne celebration that captured the spirit of the team.
Frenchman Jules Bianchi’s astonishing ninth place, from the very back of the starting grid and despite two stop/go penalties, was as good as victory for the outfit with the smallest of budgets.
To celebrate moving up to ninth in the championship, they cracked open five bottles of fizz in the pitlane – a splurge that sporting director Graeme Lowdon admitted they could hardly afford.
“I missed it all. I’ll have to buy my own,” he smiled as mechanics made thirsty work of packing up behind him in the cramped garages. I’ll certainly buy the lads a drink. And very well deserved it is too.”
Although Marussia brought upgrades to the most glamorous race on the calendar, their cost would be dismissed as little more than small change on the gaming tables of the principality’s famed casino.
“They cost a few thousand pounds,” team principal John Booth, a proud Yorkshireman with a not untypical sense of thrift, told Reuters.
Asked what anyone could buy for that in a sport where even a steering wheel costs around $50,000, he grinned: “You make it. Whittle it out of a bit of wood in the garage. But honestly, that’s all we spent on the car in the last few weeks.
“And it’s really unlocked the car from the Barcelona race [earlier this month] and into the test and gives us faith to carry on.”
Lowdon said the car would be even quicker if they could spend another couple of thousand pounds – what some teams spend on bottled water over a grand prix weekend – but that was easier said than done.
“The bottom line is that development money has to come last. You’ve an obligation to pay people to do everything and so we don’t have the development budget,” he explained.
“We’re not limited by ingenuity, we’ve got some really clever guys and they know what to do. We know that if we apply some more resource to the car, we’ll go quicker. We know that. But it’s an expensive business even before you try and make the car go quicker.”
Marussia came into the sport as Virgin Racing, one of three new teams in 2010. They employ just 193 people and have an annual budget of around 60 million pounds ($101.1 million), compared to the top teams’ hundreds of millions.
They are the first of the newcomers to score a point, 83 races on, with Caterham still empty-handed. HRT folded at the end of 2012. (Reuters)