Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi ended today"s qualifying session for the Formula 1 Gran Premio de Espana Pirelli 2014 in 18th and 19th places respectively, both pushing hard to extract the maximum from the Marussia F1 Team"s new car developments.
There was a brief hiatus at the start of the hour-long shoot-out when Maldonado had a spin and brought out the red flag. Max had not yet left the garage, so he was unaffected, but Jules was already out on track and had to return to the pits. The Q1 session resumed once the stricken Lotus was removed and Max and Jules were able to embark on two runs of three laps, with just two push laps each in total.
At the end of the first run, Jules was ahead in 17th from Max in 18th but both were flirting with the boundaries of Q2 contention.
On the second run, aware of the potential to convert their performances into a place in Q2, both drivers were pushing hard. Max enjoyed a strong, clean lap, while Jules, also improving, braked too late into turn 10 and ran wide. He lost valuable time but ensured that neither Caterham driver was a threat.
Max and Jules will start tomorrow"s 66 lap race from 17th & 18th places on the grid respectively, each promoted one place by a grid penalty for Jean-Eric Vergne.
Max Chilton: "I"m really happy with that. I"m not sure we got the balance exactly where we would have liked it, but in the end my second quick lap was pretty together and it all came good when it counted. That session showed we have made a step forward with our new developments; there"s no doubt that we are closer to the Saubers - and to Q2 contention - and we"ve pulled away from the Caterhams by a good margin. As I say, there was definitely more to come from the car, so I"m pretty optimistic for the race tomorrow. I think we can have a good fight."
Jules Bianchi: "Such a shame. My second quick lap was really coming together and I had gained a lot of time in the first two sectors, but I braked too late into turn 10 and ran wide. I was just pushing a bit too hard, but we had the car and today we could have been close to a place in Q2, so we had everything to push for. As ever, we have to take the positives and today they are that we have confirmation that we have made a good performance step towards the Saubers and we can really focus on the cars ahead now, not those behind. I have some work to do at the beginning of the race but if I can get a good start I am sure we can pull something special back, so I"m really look forward to tomorrow now."
John Booth, Team Principal: "It"s good to have ended today with more positive signs from the upgrades we have put on the car this weekend, however we are still a little disappointed that we haven"t quite yet seen the true potential of these fully realised. FP3 was a difficult session, with neither driver able to complete their options runs, Max due to a trip into the gravel at turn 5 and Jules due to a puncture picked up on his out-lap on his option run. The puncture was actually a very good early observation from his engineering team, as it surely could have resulted in a big issue had he embarked on his timed lap with it. In qualifying we had little knowledge of the cars" performance on the option tyre, so we reverted mainly to the set-ups we had run in FP2. The red light obviously affected our initial plan to give the drivers a slightly longer first run in the session and cost Jules an out/in on a set of option tyres. Jules was progressing significantly on his second lap and unfortunately went off at T10, having outbraked himself. This was a real shame, as that lap would have seen us close the gap significantly to the Saubers. Max finished the session well and most importantly both our cars sit comfortably ahead of the Caterhams. I am sure that both drivers can have a good race tomorrow; we were pleased with our long run pace on Friday and all the indications are that we can have a good fight with the cars around us."
Check out our Saturday gallery, here.