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.

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.