Chilton wants to stay, but alternatives are being considered

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Max Chilton may be keen on a second season at Marussia in 2014, but it appears that a list of potential replacements is being drafted by the management of the team as they look for a partner for Jules Bianchi next season.

It was confirmed earlier this month that Bianchi would remain with the Anglo-Russian team in 2014 after an impressive debut season, with his thirteenth-place finish at the Malaysian Grand Prix currently keeping Marussia ahead of closest-rivals Caterham for P10 in the constructors’ championship. Chilton, who was one of five rookies at the beginning of the season, has failed to match his teammate’s pace for much of the season, outqualifying him just twice. However, he expressed to Sporting Life his belief that he deserves a second season with the team.

“I feel I’m showing not just the team, but everyone on the whole, I deserve a seat for next year,” Chilton said. “Everyone gets judged, so you have to prove yourself, which is hard for rookies these days because there is so little testing, which means it’s going to take part of the season to get up to speed.

“I’ve been really happy with my performance, as have the team, and I’ve been really happy with them, so it’s going really well.”

However, sporting director Graeme Lowdon conceded that the team was considering other options including McLaren youngster Kevin Magnussen, who is set to clinch the Formula Renault 3.5 championship this weekend in Spain.

“Like any team that hasn’t confirmed drivers, there are a number of possibilities,” Lowdon explained to Press Association. “Certainly Kevin has impressed in the tests he has done, and as a team that has brought young drivers into Formula One, he is in the frame, but there are probably three or four drivers with good potential looking to get into Formula One, and we’re talking to a number of them, along with other teams.”

Lowdon went on to acknowledge Chilton’s development across the course of the season and admitted that he remains an option for the team.

“Max is definitely an option because on the driving side he is doing a really good job,” Lowdon said. “There has been real progress in a number of areas, and he has formed part of a tightly-knit team.”

Although Magnussen is a highly talented driver and has McLaren’s support, it may be unwise for Marussia to take him on. If they partnered the Dane with Bianchi, it would mean that both drivers are at the team to be nurtured with a view of a full-time race seat at their parent teams (McLaren and Ferrari) in the future. Should Marussia wish to firmly establish their own identity in Formula One, this may not be the best course of action.

NHRA: Brittany Force cleared to race this weekend in Phoenix after bad wreck 2 weeks ago

Photo: John Force Racing
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Drag racing is a Force family tradition. So, too, is not keeping a Force family member down.

Just 12 days after the most serious wreck of her six-year drag racing career, Brittany Force and John Force Racing announced late Thursday afternoon that the defending 2017 NHRA Top Fuel champion has been medically cleared and will indeed race in this weekend’s NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix, Arizona.

“I flew into Phoenix early this (Thursday) morning and headed straight out to the race track to meet up with my team,” Force said. “I suited up and got belted back into my car that I ran all last season.

“It honestly felt good to be strapped back in and I was surprised how comfortable I was. I’m looking forward to getting back in my car tomorrow (Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying) and getting back in the swing of things with my guys.”

The 31-year-old Force, one of four daughters of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, suffered a concussion and bruising after the hard crash she was involved in on February 11 in the first round of eliminations of the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals in Pomona, California.

Shortly after leaving the starting line in a race vs. Terry Haddock, Force’s dragster crossed from the right to left lanes, impacted the retaining wall with a very hard lateral crash, bounced off, spun, went on its side and briefly caught fire after crossing the finish line wheels-up.

While she is still recovering from the bruising, Force feels strong enough to get back behind the wheel. Getting back in the race car could be the best medicine of all, since she has three runner-up finishes in Phoenix, including back-to-back second-place showings in both the 2016 and 2017 national events.

The three-day event kicks off Friday with qualifying rounds at 4 and 6:30 p.m. ET, the same times as Saturday’s qualifying. Final eliminations begin at 1 p.m. ET Sunday.