Luiz Razia, the 2012 GP2 runner-up, admitted he was surprised when on Tuesday Marussia announced Max Chilton as Timo Glock’s 2013 teammate.
The 23-year-old Brazilian told Globo he was a hot contender for the seat until the very last minute.
“We didn’t have much chance at Lotus,” Razia, referring to this week’s news of Romain Grosjean’s new contract, admitted.
“But we were caught by surprise by Marussia. We were talking to them until yesterday. They said ‘We’re still deciding’. There are still two vacancies, Force India and Caterham, and we’ve been talking. Yes we still have a chance,” said Razia.
Yet another possibility is that Marussia does not honour its existing contract with Timo Glock.
Indeed, Tuesday’s press release about Chilton made not a single reference to the German, and the recent official 2013 entry list said both of Marussia’s 2013 seats were ‘TBA’ (to be announced).
“Timo has a contract until 2014 and so the team would have to pay a penalty of termination. I don’t know if that’s interesting for the team,” said Razia, who admitted he has “sponsors” but not a “bottomless pit” of funding.
Marussia have finally confirmed that Max Chilton will be driving for the team in 2013.
Chilton’s drive has been rumoured in the paddock for weeks. The British driver will replace Frenchman Charles Pic who is headed for Caterham.
Marussia is the only team on the official 2013 entry list that is yet to be offered a new Concorde Agreement deal.
The German website motorsport-total.com reports that the news could be particularly bad for the Russian-owned British backmarker, as Bernie Ecclestone is apparently considering scrapping the so-called ‘column 3′ benefits for the sport’s new teams that debuted in 2010. Presumably, Ecclestone wants to scrap the column-3 entitlements because Caterham has moved into a higher status due to regularly finishing tenth in the constructors’ world championship. And HRT has not applied to compete in 2013.
Marussia is therefore the only active team that has not even been offered a new Concorde Agreement deal by Ecclestone.
“The last thing we were told was that the columns 1, 2 and 3 will still be there. But to be honest, as long as there is no agreement, who knows?” said the team’s sporting director Graeme Lowdon.
He insisted: “It has no effect on us in terms of us being here. We will be here, no question.”
But the situation has raised the question of whether Marussia will ever be offered a Concorde Agreement deal.
“I don’t know, it’s up to Bernie,” Lowdon explained. “It is strange that some teams have one while others don’t. You would have to ask the owner of the commercial rights or the FIA.”
When the mere survival of HRT looked bleak, the Spanish team’s Chinese development driver Ma Qinghua started to look elsewhere. That is the claim of the Diario AS newspaper, reporting that the 24-year-old Shanghai-born driver entered talks with other F1 backmarkers Caterham and Marussia.
Each of those teams are yet to confirm their second race drivers for the 2013 season.
AS said Qinghua’s management, China Sport Management, opened talks with Caterham and Marussia around the time of the recent Austin and Brazil double-header.
The news is a real blow to HRT’s chances of remaining in formula one, as rumours had suggested China Sport Management was involved in talks to rescue the ailing Spanish team.
Max Chilton is on the cusp of securing a deal to make his F1 debut next year.
The GP2 driver and Briton will on Friday drive Marussia’s 2012 car during initial practice in Abu Dhabi. Beyond that, he is tipped to move into the race seat for 2013.
The son of a high-ranking official for the insurance giant Aon, 21-year-old Chilton revealed on Thursday that his sponsors are now ready to fund his F1 debut.
“I’ve managed to get two sponsors together for next year to get the whole budget together, if the seat is available, which means as a family we don’t have to put a penny in,” he said.
Marussia is in “talks with potential investors” after recording a $79 million loss last year, the business journalist Christian Sylt reports.
Writing in the Guardian, Sylt quoted the backmarker F1 team’s chief executive Andy Webb as saying bosses are “in active discussions with potential new investors”, and also seeking new sponsorship deals. Webb added that some of the talks are “well advanced although not yet completed, so the outcome of each remains uncertain”.
He said the team’s costs had risen because of “significant investment in the team’s personnel, infrastructure and factory”.
Sylt estimated Marussia’s value at about $72 million, and said the team owes $125 million in loans. The team is however expected to reap millions in Concorde Agreement income, if it can maintain its lucrative tenth place in the 2012 constructors’ points standings.
Max Chilton, the well-backed British GP2 driver who is tipped to make his F1 debut in 2013, will drive Marussia’s 2012 car in first Friday practice ahead of next weekend’s Abu Dhabi grand prix.
The team recently promoted the 21-year-old to the role of reserve driver, and he is now expected to replace Frenchman Charles Pic in the race seat for next year. Marussia said Chilton’s Abu Dhabi outing will give him the “chance to demonstrate his potential in a competitive race weekend environment”.
He will drive the possibly Caterham-bound Pic’s car.
“We are looking forward to comparing his driving development with his growing maturity outside of the car,” said team boss John Booth.
Timo Glock is expecting to be with Marussia for a fourth consecutive season in 2013. But the German is also open to “the possibility” of a change.
“It (an alternate team) would have to be a clear step forwards,” the former Toyota driver is quoted by DPA news agency. “But at the moment I am fulfilling my contract and so I am not in talks with anyone else,” added Glock.
The 30-year-old is one of the more highly-regarded of the drivers at the back of the grid. And his stock rose even higher when in Singapore his 12th place leapfrogged Marussia ahead of Caterham for the lucrative tenth place in the constructors’ championship. He said in Korea he is open to something new.
“I would then consider what my thoughts are,” said Glock.
But if he stays at Marussia, he hopes his help in securing the team millions in Concorde earnings is the step forward the former Virgin team needs.
“That would help us to develop much more, making life a bit easier for us,” said Glock.
Charles Pic insists he is “not afraid” about following his Marussia predecessors through F1’s exit.
Before the well-backed Frenchman made his debut this year, the team ran Jerome d’Ambrosio (2011) and Lucas di Grassi (2010, as Virgin) as the experienced German Timo Glock’s teammate. Belgian d’Ambrosio left to become Lotus’ reserve driver after one season, while Brazilian di Grassi subsequently spent time as a Pirelli test driver but is now moving to touring cars.
“I’m not afraid about (experiencing) a scenario like that of Lucas di Grassi and Jerome d’Ambrosio,” 22-year-old Pic said in an interview with the Dutch magazine Formule 1. “All I can do is work as hard as possible and do my best. I’ll wait and see what happens at the end of the year.”
According to strong paddock speculation, Pic is tipped to take the solid funding of his family’s business – leading European transport company Groupe Charles Andre – to Caterham in 2013.
His likely successor is the similarly well-funded British GP2 driver Max Chilton, whose father is the vice-chairman of the major insurance multinational Aon. But Pic is not ruling out staying at Marussia.
“Compared to some other teams it is obviously smaller, but I’m getting to develop very well and it’s nice to work on growing up together,” he said.
Marussia teammates Timo Glock and Charles Pic are still far from the best of friends.
We reported in July that the pair are not getting along, after the experienced German Glock accused his rookie French teammate of blocking him in Hungary.
“Maybe he doesn’t understand the English on the radio,” the angry Glock said.
He insisted it is “pointless” to try to sit down with the 22-year-old, because the blocking had happened several times this year. “It’s up to the team to solve it.”
The tension remains high, after the two Marussias fought hard for track position last weekend at Spa-Francorchamps. Asked by Auto Motor und Sport if it was a “fair fight”, Glock answered: “Only to a certain point.
“That’s all I really want to say. There have been a couple of hairy situations that we have to resolve internally.”