Chilton mulling 2016 options ahead of Le Mans debut with Nissan


LE MANS, France – The one 2014 Formula 1 driver who did make it onto Nissan’s new LMP1 program, Max Chilton, stands at something of a career crossroads heading into this weekend’s 2015 edition of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which is nearly the same place he was at the start of the year.

Chilton, the former Marussia F1 driver, has since moved onto a dual program this season with the debuting Nissan GT-R LM NISMO and the new Dallara IL15-Mazda with Carlin in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, although the latter was only meant to be a one-weekend program that has since grown.

So for 2016, he has no set plans and because he likes both, is a bit torn on where to go next.

“It depends what comes along, the best offer, to be honest. I like both. I haven’t made my mind up,” he told MotorSportsTalk.

It’s an interesting time for Chilton, who’s only 24 but has two years F1 experience banked, has done adequately well in Indy Lights and looks ahead to his Le Mans debut this weekend in Nissan’s first race with its new car.

“The most tiring thing is the travel,” Chilton said. “Yes so is F1, but it’s only a maximum of two weeks at a time. I’m sometimes to the States for a day and then back. I only did a couple trips originally, and every one I did was tied in with a test or seat fit. It’s made it slightly easier. But it’s been a very busy four months.”

The dual program has not gone exactly as planned. He has settled into Indy Lights and podiumed, but Chilton meant to focus more on the Nissan program from the start.

The program’s delays and additional testing done in place of its originally scheduled race debut at Silverstone has thrown everything a loop.

“Mixing the two projects isn’t fully working,” he admitted. “This [Nissan] is my main focus.

“I was only planning to do one race in Indy Lights, but it’s nice to be helping the team out.

“I believe you sort of make your own luck. It’s good we’ve had a couple podiums in the last couple meetings, and I’ve definitely shown my pace. But I’m in a weird stage at the moment, figuring out whether I want to do IndyCar.

“I’ll try to carry [Indy Lights] on as long as I can, but it might not be the whole year,” he added.

Indeed Chilton will miss Toronto this weekend – Carlin named Nelson Piquet Jr. as his replacement on Monday – and figure Chilton could return as early as Milwaukee on June 12, which is the next Indy Lights race after Toronto.

If he does return for that, he’d have a chance to make his actual first oval start after being sidelined before the green flag at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

“It was a leak in the fuel cell. In my career I’ve had it like once. It’s pretty rare,” he said. “It was very frustrating. They gave us the parts to fix it, and it still didn’t fix it. It’s a bit of a design fault with the fuel cell.”

We’ll see where Chilton goes next after he takes the green in the flagship No. 23 Nissan with Olivier Pla and Jann Mardenborough on Saturday.