Impressive rookie Jules Bianchi believes it is possible Marussia is on the verge of breaking into Formula 1’s midfield.
Since the team debuted as Virgin in 2010, the red and black cars have always occupied the last rows of the grid, and Bernie Ecclestone even wanted Marussia to merge with fellow backmarker Caterham ahead of the 2013 season.
And as recently as this week, Formula 1’s chief executive has proposed a ‘customer car’ rule be introduced.
“Ecclestone says the new rule would particularly benefit Marussia, Formula 1’s worst-performing team,” Formula 1 business journalist Christian Sylt wrote in the Express newspaper following his latest interview with the 82-year-old.
But, actually, Marussia – despite being locked out of Formula 1’s income-distribution Concorde Agreement by Ecclestone for now – is the faster of the backmarker teams so far this year.
That is thanks in part to the increasingly highly-rated skills of Formula 1 rookie Jules Bianchi, who found his way onto the grid this year only after Luiz Razia’s sponsor money dried up. The Ferrari-backed Frenchman also credits Marussia.
“The team has done a great job with the car, which is not as bad as people may think,” Bianchi, 23, told Spain’s El Confidencial.
“If we had a little more downforce we could be half-way down the grid, so we need to continue in this way.”
It could be said that, with Bianchi currently clearly outpacing teammate Max Chilton, all the pressure is on his shoulders to help Marussia finish tenth this year — giving the team crucial access to Formula 1’s official prize-money pool.
“I’m used to pressure anyway,” Bianchi answered, “but it is true that it is very important for Marussia to end up in that position, even if it will be very difficult, as Caterham is in the same situation as us.”
There is also pressure to impress Ferrari, who could be on the lookout for a new teammate for Fernando Alonso for 2014.
“I don’t know,” Bianchi said when asked about Felipe Massa’s seat, “I have no idea and in this world you never know which way it’s going to go.
“I’ll just try to do my best and if they decide to call me up I won’t say no, of course, but we’re far away from that now,” he added.