Ahead of Sunday's 2013 Formula 1 Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix, the Marussia F1 Team's Jules Bianchi put the MR02 within half a second of Q2 in this afternoon's qualifying shoot-out in Sepang. He placed his car in P19, within 0.3s of Valtteri Bottas in the Williams and 1.6s away from the fastest time of the Q1 session. His team-mate Max Chilton split the two Caterhams in P21.
In preparation for the crucial qualifying session, Jules and Max experienced a difficult FP3 this morning where an evaluation of race tyre wear continued alongside qualifying practice. It was also the first opportunity that Max had to run the option PZero Medium tyre. They ended the session in P20 and P22 with some significant calls to make in the break.
This afternoon's qualifying session was a different story and Jules' lap demonstrated the progress made during the three practice sessions to put the Team into a position to take the fight to the midfield in tomorrow's 56 lap race.
Jules Bianchi: "I am obviously thrilled with my qualifying lap today, but seeing how close we were to Q2 - just 0.5s - only left me wanting more. It has not been an easy time in practice, as we seem to have been struggling quite a lot with the tyre degradation. In the break we worked to put all of that together into a single lap for this afternoon and it all came good in the end, especially with the weather, which stayed dry for us. I am not sure we can expect the same dry conditions tomorrow - we will see. I do feel we can have a very interesting - and maybe exciting - race and show some more progress from where we were in Melbourne. My thanks for the Team because it has been difficult to progress the car since yesterday, but to do so in this heat and humidity is very tough. I am not sure it will be any easier tomorrow but I hope we can bring home another good result for everyone as some reward."
Max Chilton: "Today has been a tough day for us and unfortunately it didn't get any better for qualifying. We've been dealing with some significant tyre wear issues all weekend and these have hampered our progress quite a bit. This left me rather on the back foot going into qualifying and although the steps I was making to play catch up were satisfying, they were always going to be a step behind our true pace. It's disappointing because had we not suffered quite as much, the performance is obviously in the car and there to be taken advantage of. That's today done and dusted though and my thoughts now turn to tomorrow. I'm pretty confident that if we can get the Caterham off the line we can get into the right position and then start making an impression on the midfielders."
John Booth, Team Principal: "It was pleasing to get a dry qualifying session today to afford our two new drivers this experience after the difficulties of a wet session in Melbourne. The dry conditions also gave us the first true barometer of pace that we've been waiting for since pre-season testing and we have to be pleased with how things have shaken out in respect of where we are relative to the cars ahead. The morning session wasn't without its issues for Max, so unfortunately as a team we didn't prepare him in the best way for qualifying and this has undoubtedly compromised him today. However, as he demonstrated back in Melbourne, he can surely have a good race tomorrow and fight his way back up to a more representative position in the field. Jules has excelled himself today and worked well with his engineers to extract the maximum performance from the car. The good news is he came back still feeling a little disappointed in his own lap, which shows there is still more to come from him and the package in general. We look forward to what we feel sure will be an eventful race tomorrow. As today's more sustained dry window has shown, you can never predict anything in Sepang, but what we do have some confidence in after today is our ability to continue reeling in the midfield pack."
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