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Rookie diary - with Marussia’s Jules Bianchi 11 Nov 2013

Jules Bianchi (FRA) Marussia F1 Team.
Formula One World Championship, Rd14, Korean Grand Prix, Qualifying, Korea International Circuit, Yeongam, South Korea, Saturday, 5 October 2013 Jules Bianchi (FRA) Marussia F1 Team MR02.
Formula One World Championship, Rd17, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Qualifying, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE, Saturday, 2 November 2013 Jules Bianchi (FRA) Marussia F1 Team MR02, on the grid.
Formula One World Championship, Rd13, Singapore Grand Prix, Race, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Sunday, 22 September 2013 Jules Bianchi (FRA) Marussia F1 Team MR02.
Formula One World Championship, Rd13, Singapore Grand Prix, Race, Marina Bay Street Circuit, Singapore, Sunday, 22 September 2013 Jules Bianchi (FRA) Marussia F1 Team MR02.
Formula One World Championship, Rd11, Belgian Grand Prix, Qualifying, Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium, Saturday, 24 August 2013 Jules Bianchi (FRA) Marussia F1 Team MR02 crashes in the first practice session.
Formula One World Championship, Rd15, Japanese Grand Prix, Practice, Suzuka, Japan, Friday, 11 October 2013 Jules Bianchi (FRA) Marussia F1 Team MR02.
Formula One World Championship, Rd10, Hungarian Grand Prix, Practice, Hungaroring, Hungary. Friday, 26 July 2013

Jules Bianchi has won plenty of plaudits during his rookie F1 season to date. Putting his previous testing experience with Ferrari - he is a member of their Driver Academy - and Force India to good use, he has helped keep Marussia ahead of key rivals Caterham in the constructors’ championship. In the latest of our series charting the personal and professional progress of this year’s newcomers, the 24-year-old Frenchman reflects on his maiden Formula One campaign, and why there’s no regrets in staying put for 2014…

“I feel that the team is very happy with what we’ve done this year - and I am happy too, so I wanted to stay with them for a good continuity. So it was really good news for me being able to stay. It is good for the self-confidence, so I can fully concentrate on the rest of the season and don’t have to worry about next year. The timing of the announcement was really much appreciated, given the fact that there are other colleagues out there who still have raw nerves over their future.

“F1 is a tough business indeed - the pressure is mountain-high, even if you are at the back of the grid. But it is worth every bit of pressure and I want more of it - many, many more years of it. There is not really a ‘career plan’ of where I want to be at the end of 2014 and beyond. I take it step by step and try to do my best at every race - no matter the date - and then let’s see what happens in the future.

“Marussia is doing pretty well and punching above its weight - and next year with the Ferrari engine we should do even better. Everybody will start from zero again and that should be a huge chance for us and for me to stay here and have continuity. Of course, it is very important for us to stay ahead of Caterham this year because of the prize money. There are still two races left and Caterham is catching up, but we will be fighting tooth and nail to stay where we are.

Bianchi has dominated team mate and fellow rookie Max Chilton, out-qualifying the Briton at every race bar one, which was in Japan where he had a rather unusual practice crash. He has also had to contend with giving up his car to reserve driver Rodolfo Gonzalez for some Friday practice sessions.

“Of course it is satisfying to have such a qualifying ratio over your team mate as he’s always your first target. I hope it will stay that way until the end of the season. Handing the car to Rodolfo was a bit frustrating - of course as mileage is everything in F1. But on the other hand I understand why it happens because I also profited from that procedure at Force India when I was the third man there. I know what it is like to be a third driver, probably not getting the full appreciation from the guy whose car you are driving. (laughs)

“The Suzuka accident was really strange - and frustrating. I could not do anything as my arm was stuck and I was reduced to passenger. It was doubly frustrating as the pace was really good until then, so it is hard to let things slip out of your hand. And of the tracks new to me this season, Suzuka was my favourite. It is simply amazing. I knew Spa and love it dearly, but Suzuka is really, really different. A race driver’s dream come true!”

So with his rookie season almost complete, what have been the highs and lows of Bianchi’s debut F1 campaign? What has shocked or surprised him, and what does he hope to achieve in the final two rounds of 2013?

“The qualifying high-point was in India. The races, I have few of them that I am very pleased about. Of course Malaysia, where we finished in P13 and since when we’ve been sitting ahead of Caterham in the standings, but I can add Canada and Silverstone to that list. India was pretty good as well, even though I had an issue while pitting. The lows were Singapore and Monza. At these two places I wasn’t really feeling confident with the car so I was struggling a bit more.

“The season has gone pretty quickly, especially as you have to take in new tracks and new procedures. Then time flies. Sometimes a month feels like no more than a week. Isn’t there the saying that a happy man does not notice time passing? I am happy in what I am doing. (laughs). My third-drivers roles at Ferrari in 2011 and Force India in 2012 meant I already pretty much knew my way around in F1, even if I was not racing during that time, so there’s been no more slack-jawed amazement this season. Now the aim is to stay in front of Caterham in the 2013 constructors’ championship. We have to keep pushing, as things can change very quickly - as the team had to learn the hard way at the final round last season!”

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