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.

Kyle Busch interests McLaren for Indy 500, but team is leaning toward experience

McLaren Indy Kyle Busch
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With Arrow McLaren SP heavily weighing a fourth car for the Indy 500 next year, Kyle Busch is a candidate but not at the top of the IndyCar team’s list.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown addressed the possibility Wednesday morning during a video news conference with Gavin Ward, the team’s newly named racing director.

“I have not personally spoken with Kyle Busch, but you can read into that that someone else in our organization has,” Brown said. “We want to make sure if we run a fourth car, we’re in the mindset that we want someone that is experienced around the 500. It’s such an important race, and from a going for the championship point of view, we’ve got three drivers that we want to have finish as strong as possible, so if we ran a fourth car, we’d want to be additive, not only for the fourth car itself, but to the three cars and so bringing in someone who’s not done it before potentially doesn’t add that value from an experience point of view.”

Busch will race the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing next season in NASCAR under a new deal that will allow the two-time Cup Series champion to make his Indy 500 debut. Busch, who had a previous deal to run the Indy 500 nixed by Joe Gibbs Racing, openly courted Chevy IndyCar teams to contact him during his introductory news conference with RCR last month.

After Team Penske (which has given no indications of a fourth car at Indy alongside champion Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), McLaren is the second-best Chevy organization, and it’s fielded an extra Indy 500 car the past two years for Juan Pablo Montoya. The Associated Press reported last month that McLaren was in “serious conversation” about running Busch at Indy with Menards sponsorship.

But with its restructured management, the team is in the midst of significant expansion for 2023. AMSP is adding a third full-time car for 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi to team with Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, and a massive new shop also is being built in the Indianapolis area.

“(It’s) not because of him but purely because of experience,” Brown said of Busch. “He’s an awesome talent and would be huge, huge news for the speedway. But yeah, I think everyone is under consideration if we decide to do it, but experience is right at the top of the list as far as what’s going to be the most important to us.”

And it seems likely there will be a veteran joining Rossi, O’Ward and Rosenqvist at the Brickyard.

“A fourth car at the 500 is very much under consideration,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t even want to get ahead of ourselves, but we wouldn’t be ruling out a fourth car in the future on a full-time basis. That definitely wouldn’t be for ’23. But as we expand the team and get into larger facilities and things of that nature, it’s something that Gavin and I have spoken about.

“I think we would be in a position to run a fourth car at the 500 this upcoming year. If we do decide to do that, we’ll make that decision soon for maximum preparation, and I would say we’re open minded to a fourth car in ’24 and beyond and probably will make that decision middle of next year in time to be prepared if we did decide to do that.”

Brown also addressed the future of Alex Palou, who will be racing for Chip Ganassi Racing next season after also signing a deal with McLaren. Though Brown declined to get into specifics about whether Palou had signed a new deal, he confirmed Palou will continue to test “our Formula One car from time to time.

“Everyone has reached an amicable solution,” Brown said. “We’ve now had Alex in our Formula One car as we have Pato. That will continue in the future, which we’re quite excited about. At this point we’re laser-focused on 2023 and glad to have the noise behind us and now just want to put our head down and get on with the job with the three drivers we have.”