Sports. Honestly. Since 2011

83rd time lucky for Marussia, Jules Bianchi secures points at last!

In 2009, the FIA granted permission for three new teams to enter F1 for the 2010 season: the Campos team; the Manor team and Team USF1. Following the announcement that BMW was to withdraw from the sport later that year, a fourth new team was granted entry under the historic name Lotus Racing, not to be confused with either the team Lotus, which was run by Colin Chapman back in the ’50s through to the ’70s and closed in the ’90s, nor the Lotus F1 Team which is on the grid today, which was formerly Toleman, Benetton and Renault. Following Toyota’s withdrawal, Peter Sauber was allowed to purchase his old team and was able to re-enter formula one.

Between the end of the 2009 season and the start of the 2010 season there was massive change up and down the pitlane. The world champion Jenson Button had moved from Brawn GP to McLaren, Brawn GP had completely been taken over by Mercedes to become a works team; and they hired Nico Rosberg from Williams in a swap with the hugely experienced Rubens Barrichello and they persuaded the legendary Michael Schumacher out of retirement. Red Bull Racing was the only team to retain its two drivers from the start of 2009, and Fernando Alonso took the ‘retiring’ Kimi Raikkonen’s seat at Ferrari, leaving Renault. The Renault team ran under different colours to the 2009 season and was run by completely different people following the bans to Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds. Robert Kubica and rookie Vitaly Petrov drove for the team. Force India and Toro Rosso retained the drivers they ended the previous year with.

Lotus hired two grand prix winners in Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen, Sauber ran former McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa and the hugely exciting Kamui Kobayashi. Campos changed name to Campos Meta before being bought out completely by the Hispania squad, forming HRT (Hispania Racing Team); they hired GP2 frontrunners Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok, who were teammates in the series. Manor was bought out by Richard Branson, and he changed the name into Virgin Racing. They hired Timo Glock from Toyota and another GP2 frontrunner in Lucas di Grassi.

Virgin’s racing car was unique in that it was designed solely using CFD (computational fluid dynamics), and looked stunning. However, like Lotus’ and Hispania’s cars, suffered huge teething problems. It was reported that the Virgin was not designed around the new regulation banning refuelling so the car would fail to finish any race until a new fuel tank was designed because not enough fuel would fit in the car. Because both Virgin and Lotus were owned by airline owners, the two bosses Tony Fernandes and Branson had a bet in which the one who would finish lower in the championship standings would have to dress up and be a waitress on a flight for the other’s plane company.

All the teams went to Bahrain to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of the Formula One World Championship. All the world champions that were alive except for Nelson Piquet and Kimi Raikkonen were present. It was a dull race. However, Lotus effectively took first blood in the dramatic fight for 10th with a fifteenth place finish; the other ‘new teams’ all retired from the race.

Lotus went even better in the next race, finishing in thirteenth while HRT scored their first finish. Virgin managed their first finish though in the next race with di Grassi getting to the flag five laps down. With improved reliability from the top teams as the season went on, results were hard to come by for the new boys and despite Lotus suffering from a lot of problems, they held onto 10th place in the championship. The deciding race for this squabble turned out to be Japan, where due to many top cars being involved in contact, Lotus managed a 12th and a 13th place finish. So Lotus would finish 10th in the end, with HRT 11th and Virgin 12th due to HRT having more 14th place finishes than Virgin. Branson had lost the bet.

Heading into 2011, each of the three new teams changed identity, Lotus Racing became Team Lotus (after a lot of legal squabble with Lotus-Renault GP, which got confusing!), Hispania Racing Team became HRT, and Virgin became Marussia Virgin Racing. Branson had sold his team to the Russian company. Lotus (the green one) had retained their drivers, with HRT shuffling between Vitantonio Liuzzi, Narain Karthikeyan and Daniel Ricciardo all season long. Virgin retained Glock but replaced di Grassi with the popular Belgian Jerome d’Ambrosio. In terms of pace, Virgin was much closer to Lotus while HRT dropped well off the pace. All were still far away from the midfield though.

The 107% rule was reintroduced for 2011, meaning that a car must set a time within 107% of the fastest Q1 time at some point during the weekend to be allowed to race, making it harder for the new teams. HRT immediately fell short of this in the first race. Once again, Lotus drew first blood and achieved a 13th place finish while top cars failed to finish. D’Ambrosio finished 14th on his debut. Strangely, that would be the best result for either team all season. Virgin finished last once again in the standings after an excellent drive by Liuzzi in Canada meant he finished 13th in that race, giving HRT 11th.

More name changing occurred heading into the 2012 season, with Team Lotus becoming Caterham, now powered by Renault, and Virgin fully becoming Marussia. Caterham retained Kovalainen but hired Petrov from Lotus (the other Lotus), while de la Rosa joined Karthikeyan at HRT. The third rookie in three years joined Glock at Marussia, this time, Frenchman Charles Pic. Marussia drew first blood this time while both Caterhams failed to finish and HRT failed to qualify again. Caterham bounced back though and took 10th at Monaco with a 13th place finish, and another at Europe. HRT dropped well away from the other two and it was all set up for a dramatic showdown in Brazil. Running in 12th place, Pic was set to achieve that 10th place for Marussia, but Petrov passed him with just a few laps to go. When Paul di Resta crashed his Force India this became 11th and Petrov had made sure that the Green Team were top of the new boys for the third year in a row. HRT dropped out at the end of the year with financial problems, but despite the rumours, the other two stayed.

Both teams drafted in two new drivers for 2013, with Pic moving to Caterham alongside Giedo van der Garde, and Ferrari academy driver Jules Bianchi joining former test driver Max Chilton. Luiz Razia was set to get Bianchi’s seat but he couldn’t gather the sponsorship in time. While Vettel essentially annihilated the field, some excellent driving by Bianchi in the Malaysia Grand Prix allowed him to finish 13th, the highest finish by either of the two teams all season. Chilton managed to finish all the races that season in a very tight battle as Marussia and Caterham were separated by very little at times. Caterham’s stronghold on that tenth place and the money that goes with it was breached.

For 2014, Marussia changed engines from Cosworth to Ferrari. They retained Bianchi and Chilton as Caterham went for their third completely different lineup in as many years hiring Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson. With so many mechanical problems expected from these new hybrid cars with so many different components to the year before, this was the chance for both teams to finally achieve their first points. While some questionable driving cost Bianchi some strong results, Chilton drove some very solid races to take two 13th places to Kobayashi’s one. So then headed to Monaco, both teams were hoping for the usual Monaco chaos to play into their hands. They got it. Top cars failed, top drivers made questionable moves, and some fantastic driving by Bianchi, including controversially passing Kobayashi meant he finished 8th on the road, 9th after a slight penalty. Marussia had finally done it. They had scored points and boy did they celebrate.


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