The Sepang International Circuit threw up an all too familiar challenge today, with torrential rain arriving right on cue for the start of the crucial qualifying session. Marussia's Jules Bianchi ended the day in 19th position with a best lap of 2:02.702, while Max Chilton achieved a time of 2:04.388 and was 21st.
The Marussia drivers were among the first on track to capitalise on the improving conditions, although the intermediate tyre was still required. Timing is everything with the new ERS systems and with further rain on the horizon, the window of opportunity narrowed and both drivers missed out on the chance to improve their lap times. A red flag brought Q1 to a premature end as there was insufficient time to resume the session and complete a timed lap.
Max Chilton, #4, MR03-02, 21st: “A slightly frustrating qualifying session after having been on the pace all weekend. In those conditions, you get one chance to pull everything together at the same time and the only time I got a clear lap was the lap where I didn’t get any ERS. I also had traffic on my push lap, so it was a bit of a messy session all round, which is a shame as I felt quite confident with the car. We don’t yet know what tomorrow will bring but I’m prepared for any eventuality weather-wise and I think we have a car to take advantage of any opportunities.”
Jules Bianchi, #17, MR03-01, 19th: “I think it was a good qualifying session and one where we did not experience any issues with the ERS management, so this is positive. Now we have to work on the difficulties we experienced in the wet for the first time. The conditions were very changeable so timing was always going to be critical today. Now we will keep working for the race tomorrow, as I think we can achieve a good result if circumstances go our way and we make the best of everything.”
John Booth, Team Principal: “It was clear in FP3 this morning that the changes we had made overnight represented a positive step for Max, however with Jules we were not quite so on top of the car balance issues and he was more unhappy with the car than he had been in FP2. On his side of the garage we spent a lot of the morning stepping back through some of the changes but by the end of FP3 we had set up most of our systems for qualifying and we were reasonably happy that with some further changes we could improve the car balance. Qualifying obviously threw up a lot of challenges. We spent most of the 50 minute delay monitoring the radar and it was quite clear that the start of the session would be good for intermediate tyres, however with the potential for more rain we made sure we were out straight away at the start of the session.
"The timing of the laps is now far more crucial with the need to recharge the ERS system between push laps. While we didn’t quite manage this with Max, everything went to plan with Jules. In hindsight stopping one lap earlier for the second set of inters may have been of benefit, however I’m happy that the pit wall made the right calls today. Although the gap to Q2 is significant and there’s a feeling of disappointment within the team that we could have got more out of both cars, we are heading more and more in the right direction in terms of the way we are running this new car in varied conditions and sessions. Now we look forward to tomorrow, when we will be ready for any eventuality.”