Three to Think for 2014 - Marussia
We are just days away from the first race of the season. The amount of excitement that’s in the air is incredible. The pre-season build up was fantastic. Yes, we are talking about those pre-season tests. Nothing major has been conclusive so far, but we have to wonder if there are teams who are already banking on 2014. Or, we can put it in this way – Should some teams in particular try and go all out for the 2014 season from this very moment?
We are not making this up. It’s a well known fact that the 2014 season is probably the biggest season in recent times. The expenses are already tipped to hit the high charts for many teams. Normally, when this sort of major season arrives, we would definitely point our fingers at the backmarkers and the midfield teams to put their money on the ‘Major Season’. But, we really have to pick three particular teams, who need to put their money on the 2014 season from this very moment to ensure they are not lost in the ‘Zeal’.
We are not even sure if they would be featured in the upcoming weekend at Australia. They still haven’t signed their commercial agreement. But then again, this is Formula 1. One can ‘Never say never’. Maybe, by the time one reads this article, Marussia might have left no stones unturned, and would have signed on the dotted line. This is one team that has done it all in the last one month. From having dropped a top driver to dropping his replacement, all due to lack of funds, and later signing a driver against the wishes of their technical partner, Marussia seem to be taking their steps carefully. Yes, we have some who can go crazy against Marussia, and complain that this team is just surviving, and have done injustice to Timo Glock and Razia. We do agree, but then, this is a team on a budget. Not sure what else we can dream of from this budget oriented team.
Apart from the finances, they seem to have a strong package (That statement applies to 65% of the teams on the grid). Marussia is one team which has worked on its mistakes from the past. They have dropped their CFD only approach, signed a technical consultant, who was literally thrown off the record books in Formula 1 for a while. They signed a technical agreement with McLaren, similar to the lines of the Force India-McLaren deal. A KERS partnership with a Groove based team was also signed. Best of all, the current weak link of the whole package is the Cosworth engine, who have indicated their inability to participate in the 2014 season. Things are all looking up. As of this writing, their current driver lineup, Max Chiton and Jules Bianchi, are one of the exciting prospects of this sport. We already have reports of a potential deal for the engines from Ferrari that might be coming, due to the Bianchi connection. When we put all that on a paper, they surely have the best package for the 2014 season, and beyond.
Now comes the crucial part. Pat Symonds, who has served his ban, would be a major addition to this team. He was a technical consultant until the end of the last season, but having served his ban, Pat Symonds will now be an integral part of this team. From attending Grand Prix weekends to spending quality time at the factories, Pat Symonds has access to everything he would wish for. Theoretically, Marussia’s progress is guaranteed for this season. But then again, if we take the Mercedes principle of ‘transition’, you would take a whole year or more to settle down, before the word ‘progress’ is shown. That would mean that 2013 is more of a transition year for this team. Both their drivers, by the end of the year, would have gained enough experience, considering the fact that they both stay on for the entire season. This would mean that 2014 is an ideal platform for Marussia to ask its drivers to work towards their goal of say, top 8 finishes. Yes, realistically it’s a tall ask, but then, it would be an ideal dream for a progressing team.
Virgin Racing was an amazing concept, tragically cut short due to a variety of reasons. Formula 1 is not ready to think multi-dimensional at the moment. The reason for the entry of this ambitious team was due to the RRA and other budget oriented approaches that FIA was set to implement. Things never progressed in that direction, and the crazy level of spending still exists in Formula 1. Virgin Racing could have have been a worthy midfield team under the budget oriented approach that FIA had proposed. At the moment, they are forced to deal with issues mostly related to finances. It was understandable when Timo Glock was sacked, but Razia’s sacking was unfair. But everyone knew what the team was after, and it was really fair on the team’s part to sack a driver who proposed to infuse funds which sadly never materialized.
Based on the unofficial aggregate times from the pre-season testing, it’s again incredibly close between Caterham and Marussia. Maybe, in the second test at Barcelona, Marussia seem to have pulled off a coup, and looked to have progressed well. But, unfortunately for this team, Caterham had pulled back their losses in the final test, and narrowly edged out this team.
Our best bet for Marussia would be to sort out their engine deals for 2014. This, again, isn’t possible at the moment, because of the lack of clarity from the manufacturers themselves, as they have to deal with a lot of issues, like final pricing and so on. But if somehow Marussia can sort the engine deal, they should work on their 2014 car. In that case, 2013 would act as an ideal test-bed for this progressing team, who have a lot to show off in their proposed home race next season. This is one team which can’t afford sky high expenses. They have ambitious drivers, who themselves have a lot to prove for the next one year. Bianchi is handicapped due to the lack of track time. This season, Bianchi drove for 56 laps at Jerez, and 96 laps at Barcelona for Force India. After being confirmed as a driver for Marussia, Bianchi clocked in 136 laps for Marussia at the final test. When combined, this isn’t a small number of laps, as compared to his rivals including Adrian Sutil, but then, one has to imagine his level of adaptability. It’s a tall ask for Jules Bianchi, when asked to perform from the word ‘go’, but his experience from Force India should come in handy.
And Marussia had admitted about the lack of talks with Ferrari till date for the 2014 engine deal, and the proposed backing from Bianchi is much smaller to what the team had anticipated when they gave a shout-out to find a replacement for Glock. We have to believe that the team was looking at building a strong line-up for the future, especially when there are tons of other drivers in the market, including the likes of Narain Karthikeyan, who would have been the oldest driver on the grid if he was to take part in this season, as he was one of the few drivers set to have agreed to bring in the funds as requested by Marussia. Then we had Heikki Kovalainen as well. It was reported that McLaren favored him when there were talks of sacking Razia. So, it wasn’t the lack of options, but it was the team’s ambitions that might have gone the way for Bianchi. Meanwhile, there is Max Chilton, who is clearly looking forward to shed the tag of ‘pay driver’. He was one of the few lucky drivers on the grid to clock in maximum mileage during the pre-season testing. With 107 laps from Jerez, and a combined count of 443 laps from the two tests at Barcelona, Chilton looks set for the upcoming season. Pat Symonds is another personality within the team who would be itching to prove his ability after the Singapore crash-gate scandal. This is the first time that KERS is being used by the team, after its reintroduction in 2011. The KERS package is being provided by Williams, which means that the product has been tested on various loads.
“It was said many times during 2012 that, notwithstanding the impressive steps we were taking in other areas of our development, KERS – or the lack of it – was the defining factor in determining our position relative to our immediate competitors. KERS was however a ‘strategic omission’ from our package until now; we opted to place the emphasis on aerodynamics, so that when we were in a position to bring the system to the car, we already had the strongest possible basis and its integration would be relatively straightforward.
Thus far, this has certainly been the case, as our trackside engineering team have spent the winter refining their tools and preparing for the addition of KERS to ensure we can hit the ground running with effect from this week and use the short period of testing we have to get the car optimised for Melbourne.
It is early days in our pre-season development programme but there is a great deal of optimism amongst the team for what lies ahead. With that in mind, we all look forward to seeing the MR02 make its on-track debut later this morning.” – John Booth
Quite an impressive statement from John Booth during the unveiling of the MR-02, who also admitted that the presence of Pat Symonds at the track side is an important step for their progress.
“We have our technical director at the circuit now which is a good step for us as well,” John Booth.
This team has proved in the past that they can differentiate between a dream and a reality. To lose the 10th place in the constructor standings by a whisker would have let down their morale, but what can be a better way than hitting the track hard and scoring points consistently?
We are not stressing that 2014 is their only chance to shine, but it’s just the fact that 2014 can be an ideal platform for this wonderful team to showcase their abilities. The limited budget they have can be put forward for this project, and it would mean that they have a realistic chance for fighting at something, while it would be the same saga, as in the past, for the 2013 season if they decide to fight with Caterham.