After 12 days of pre-season testing the true pace of our MR02 was finally revealed in today’s Australian Grand Prix. In the first race of their Formula 1 careers, Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton brought their cars home in P15 and P17 respectively, outpacing both Caterhams and at times matching the pace of several of the midfield runners.
Jules had a dream racing debut and was consistently quick from lights-to-flag. Max got tagged by the Caterham of Van der Garde early on and front wing damage necessitated an extended pitstop. This hurt his race as it meant that he hit blue flags much earlier, which hampered his progress.
Jules Bianchi, #22:
“I am very happy with my race today and really can’t imagine a better start to my first season of F1. Yesterday’s qualifying was quite a challenge but today I felt very calm as I looked forward to this moment. Generally everything went very smoothly in the race and we worked our way through the tyre management issues as well as we could in order to maximise the possibilities. We have not had the luxury of time so I would like to thanks my engineers, car crew and the whole team for helping me to be as prepared as possible and for a great job today. It would seem that the Team have made a big step over the winter and it is very nice to see them reacting positively to this.”
Max Chilton, #23:
“I am happy with my Formula 1 debut and although it was less than straightforward, it’s good to get it under my belt and to know where we stand relative to the competition. The coming-together with Van der Garde early in the race damaged my front wing, which meant I had to stop for a wing change. This put me back out on track such that I hit the blue flag period and it was a bit of a battle to recover the ground I lost. I had a really good fight with Van der Garde and closed the gap enough to be able to pass him. From there I was able to demonstrate more of my true pace and I was posting laps around three seconds faster than him. Although the race had its frustrations, I feel like I’ve learned a lot that I perhaps wouldn’t have learned otherwise and that will be useful experience over the next few races. I’m looking forward to Malaysia now so I can roll all that back into my racing and be able to take the fight to the midfield pack.”
John Booth, Team Principal:
“Generally we are pleased with our debut race with the MR02 and happy that the positive signs from pre-season testing were an accurate reflection of the true performance level of our early package. Jules drove a fantastic race and quickly left the Caterhams in his wake to focus on the midfield pack in front. We had started on the Supersoft tyre and perhaps underestimated how quickly the degradation would come on these tyres, so we made a very early swap onto the Mediums which enabled Jules to get back into contention. Unfortunately, by this stage, there was a reasonable gap to the Williams in front and Jules did a good job to gradually eat into that. The rest of his race was really based around stopping when the rate of tyre degradation got too high. The very late stop to the second set of Supersofts came about when we had some substantial front wear on his last set of prime tyres. Under normal circumstances perhaps we would have carried on but with a pitstop time loss easily in hand to the cars behind, we decided it was safer to stop."
"Max was unfortunately caught out by a collision with Van der Garde early on in the race, which forced him into a stop for a new front wing. The loss that a pitstop of this nature entails unfortunately meant that he hit the blue flags much sooner than Jules and in this situation it was always going to be difficult to recover. He overtook him in the race but with such a big gap to Pic there was not enough time to reel him in. We leave Melbourne satisfied that we have definitely progressed over the winter. We should certainly never underestimate the midfield teams, however I think we’ve shown today that they are realistically within striking distance. As a team we must work as hard as we can over the next few races to seize the opportunity to be racing them. I’d like to thank everyone back at Banbury for their hard work, and also our engine supplier Cosworth. We are also very pleased to have had such a successful debut with the new KERS system.”