Comment: The little guys do it, points for Marussia


I’m ready and willing to admit that the thing I was most excited about at Monaco was that Jules Bianchi and Marussia finally broke through and scored a top 10. I had mentioned to friends that it could be possible that either Caterham or Marussia could break through. When Kobayashi was running 12th earlier in the race, it looked possible.

They’d need luck – and they got some.

This is the fifth season that Marussia and Caterham (and HRT before too…) have been involved in F1. Monaco was the 82nd race. Between the two teams, that is 328 starts and finally one of the drivers has cracked the top 10.

And as a guy that loves the absolute minnow I was delighted.

So evidently were the team – Jules Bianchi for showing the talent we know he has – that is so hard to show in a back of the grid car and to John Booth who somehow runs a team on almost zero dollars.

Jules Bianchi #17
“Wow. What a race and what a result for the whole Team. I am just incredibly happy, but first of all I have to pay credit to everyone at the Marussia F1 Team for making this possible. Nobody knows just how much work and determination goes into our races, so today I am thrilled that I have helped them to achieve their long-held target of our first points. To achieve them together makes me very proud. My thanks to everyone here in Monaco, the rest of the Team in Banbury and also to our powertrain partners, Scuderia Ferrari, because together we have all made great progress, particularly since the Barcelona Test. This gave us the confidence to push and we certainly did that here this weekend. It was not an easy race; there were some enjoyable highs along the way, but also a couple of concerning moments too. What matters at the end is that we got there and we can savour the highlights for a long time to come. I would also like to thank the Ferrari Driver Academy, who support me every step of my career.”

John Booth, Team Principal
“Naturally we are overjoyed at today’s result and it is a fantastic reward for all the hard work and determination, not just this year, but over the past four and a bit seasons. My congratulations to the team here in Monaco, back at base in Banbury and our much newer colleagues at Scuderia Ferrari. Our powertrain partnership is young, but we saw the potential right from the start of the relationship and we are now really starting to see the results of a true integration. A lot of this weekend’s clear step stems from the progress we made at the recent Barcelona Test. We were cautiously optimistic about our performance increment, but we really needed to see it translate into a good race here in Monaco before we could feel too confident. We are only a young team, but we have every reason to believe in ourselves and a positive future. Clearly, in today’s race, we benefited from some attrition but, throughout, we were running at a pace that allowed us to stay in position with the cars around us. It is clear that we are now able to race with the back of the midfield pack. The penalty situation was a cause for concern and the way in which we served this with Jules was the product of some unusual circumstances, but we understand and accept the decisions. Thankfully, the second penalty was not the determining factor that it could have been. A tough day for Max; today simply didn’t go his way, but we are pleased for him that his finishing record continues.”

Some really wondered if this day would come or if the new crop of teams from Max Mosley’s 2010 vision would all fold without a thing to show for it.  The vision was noble – to allow teams to compete on what could almost be seen as a sensible budget – $50million or so.  But as F1 does, that vision died for the sake of someone may not make as much money.

How Marussia and Caterham compete is beyond me, no sponsors but a lot of perseverance and passion.

The fact that it has taken 328 starts for one of these cars to crack the top 10 shows more to how the sport has changed since the last time we saw a bunch of new teams.

In 1994 and 1995 we saw Simtek, Pacific and Forti come and all go by the time 1996 season came to a close.  The teams would have had loved a budget close to that of Marussia but they competed in a different time.

All three in their short times would have scored points with the current points.

For example, Forti scored a top 10 on debut with Pedro Diniz finishing 10th at Brazil in 1995. The bulky Forti with a heavy, slow and old Ford engine in the back got to the line – some seven laps down and as the final classified finisher.

Equally, Andrea Montermini scored 9th in that same race. He and teammate Bertrand Gachot would both finish 8th during the 1995 seasons with the underfunded Pacific effort. Equally Jean-Marc Gounon and David Brabham would finish in the top 10 in the Simtek in 1994 and Domenico Schiattarella would take a top 10 in Argentina in 1995.

Granted all these cars were well off the pace, at least five seconds a lap off the pace. But they were there and F1 was unpredictable enough for them to break the top 10. Heck the only year Minardi failed to get in the top 10 was in 1987…

So what has changed exactly?

Obviously there is far more money at the front of the grids and with technology changing so quickly those with the money will always win out. Probably too, these days failure is a marketing sin. Engineering and trying new things aren’t allowed like it was in F1. Could you imagine any team enduring the sort of reliability issues that Renault faced in the late ’70s when they entered F1?

Ultra reliability is the cornerstone and Monaco was the first race in a long time that we have had unpredictability – where we could genuinely wonder who would retire next. Who would hit a wall, whose engine would let go, who would run into someone else.

The race had a distinct air of a late 80s or early 90s to it. Insofar that the leaders were in another world. Nico Rosberg just drove away and Lewis Hamilton would have too if not for his vision problem. With Red Bull right there too, it felt like that McLaren/Williams domination we saw for so long.

Behind them though, who knew what would happen, who would hang on.

In the end, this race was what the Marussia team needed to break into the points – and ensure that this era of F1 was not a waste for those at the back.

A little luck was needed but the team who topped a session in testing deserves it.

Afterall despite the lack of results, in Monaco qualifying the field was covered by more than 7 seconds in 1994. In 2014, it was less than 4.

Well done to you Marussia.

By Sam Tickell, May 2014

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