When Max Chilton was announced as a Marussia driver for the 2013 season, many people believed that there was one reason why he was chosen: money.
Of course, given the current state of Formula 1, Chilton’s financial backing from Aon, probably did have an influence on his transition into the sport.
His results in the junior formulae were hardly stunning; however, he did finish the 2012 GP2 Championship in fourth place, after two wins, two pole positions and four podiums. But Davide Valsecchi and Luiz Razia, who finished first and second respectively, both failed to gain race seats in F1.
Understandably, this led to Chilton being criticised early on in the season as being merely a paid-driver. It didn’t help when he was paired with Ferrari academy driver, Jules Bianchi.
Bianchi, Ferrari and many others believe, is a future world champion and his natural speed is evident as he has outpaced Chilton all year.
Normally, the first person a driver is compared to is their team mate. However, if Bianchi is as good as many believe, perhaps Chilton is not as bad a driver as he appears.
This view is held by many now the season is over, with The Guardian ranking the Brit above Alonso in alternative driver rankings, where rating is based on performance rather than points.
Bianchi had the upper hand in qualifying all season. Chilton only out-qualified him once on outright pace but on many occasions he was not far off of his pace.
Chilton, like Bianchi, also managed to get through to Q2 in Spa. Although this was not a reflection of his speed, due to the changing weather conditions and the team’s different strategy, to set a time on slick tyres on a damp track under a lot of pressure is still an achievement.
In the races, Chilton also showed potential. His best finish was 14th in Monaco but he was often involved in close battles with his team mate and the Caterhams at the back of the field.
Compared to Bianchi, he was not often far behind. After Abu Dhabi, Chilton tweeted: “Long day for us both today, only four seconds between us after 300km. On the plus side I got the best start the team have ever had.”
So compared to future-star Bianchi, Chilton appears to deserve his position in F1.
Chilton also managed to finish every race this season.
This is a remarkable achievement, especially for a rookie. This is something which will be hard to overlook by the team when choosing their second driver for next year.
So although many people were critical of the Brit and thought his position in the sport was just because of his financial backing, Chilton has had a decent first season in Formula 1. Perhaps he may not be a future world champion in the making, but he definitely deserves his seat on the grid.
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