Max Chilton’s appointment as Marussia’s 2nd driver for their 2013 campaign takes the number of British drivers on the grid back up to 4, a total not reached since the 2008 Spanish Grand Prix when Anthony Davidson started his final race for the ailing Super Aguri squad.
Is there anything to suggest Chilton’s career will not suffer the same anonymous end as the unfortunate Davidson did before him?
Max’s early career in British Formula 3 proved frustrating, a pointless 2007 giving way to a slightly improved 2008 with two podiums and two poles but again languishing down in 10th in the highly competitive field. 2009 by comparison was a resounding revival, the Reigate-born driver placing 4th in the final standings with victory in the final race and four other podiums to his name. Alongside his British exploits he debuted in the Formula Renault 3.5 series at the Monaco race, but this remained his only appearance of the season in the category.
He graduated to GP2 for 2010 with Ocean Racing Technology but the year was largely fruitless, although a brace of points finishes late in the season gave some hope for 2011. In the end it was just as disappointing as Chilton only increased his points haul by 1 on the previous year, leaving some to question his merit for being in the series.
He answered the critics with a superb 2012 campaign, winning two races and scoring two other podiums along with a haul of points finishes that carried him to 4th in the final standings and made him the top Brit ahead of countrymen James Calado and Jolyon Palmer. Marussia, the GP2 subsidary of the Formula One team, saw fit to give him his chance in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix weekend when he piloted the MR01 during the first Friday Free Practice session. He was consequently signed up by the team to replace the outgoing Charles Pic in December 2012.
Unlike Esteban Gutierrez and Valtteri Bottas, it would be unfair to heap expectation upon Chilton given the likelihood his machinery will not be up to the challenge of scoring points. All that will be asked of the 21 year-old is that he brings the car home, perhaps even ahead of the odd Caterham or two which would be a bonus.
In short, Chilton has his work cut out to make any impact. But then so did Fernando Alonso when he debuted for Minardi 12 years ago…