[Updated] Britain will have four drivers on the F1 grid next season after Max Chilton was confirmed in the second Marussia seat for 2013.
The 21-year-old from Reigate impressed with two wins in GP2 this year, ultimately finishing fourth in the standings, with Marussia’s junior team and his promotion to a race seat at the senior F1 outfit seemed inevitable after he was announced as its reserve driver from the Japanese GP and made his race weekend debut in first practice in Abu Dhabi.
Chilton, who is likely to bring a budget with him given his father is the vice-chairman of insurance giant Aon and has backed his sons’ racing careers, replaces the Caterham-bound Charles Pic and will be Timo Glock’s fourth different rookie team-mate in as many seasons since the original Virgin outfit launched in 2010.
But the youngster, who commentated alongside James Allen on qualifying for the Indian GP on BBC Radio 5 Live in October, expects his recent months imbedded in the team to prove invaluable for 2013 and says he will spend the time between now and the opening pre-season test focusing on physical preparations for his rookie year.
“It’s hard to put into words how I’m feeling today, with the announcement that I will be racing for the Marussia F1 Team in 2013,” he said.
“It comes at the end of what has been a fantastic year for me, and those steps – my GP2 pole positions and wins, my performances in the F1 Young Driver Test and in FP1 at Abu Dhabi – have given everyone the confidence in my ability to compete at the highest level of motor sport.
“I am very fortunate to have spent the last six races with the Marussia F1 Team as Reserve Driver, which means that instead of a standing start, I am already up to speed and at ease with the people, the culture, the systems and of course, the 2012 package.
“During the period since the Japanese Grand Prix, I have watched at very close quarters the incredible commitment and determination to succeed that saw everyone in the team pushing until the very last race. I feel very lucky to be able to embark on my F1 racing career with this group of people. Pre-season testing is just a few weeks away, so my focus now is to continue my physical preparation whilst spending as much time as possible working with the technical team to help develop the car I will drive in my debut F1 season.”
Marussia team boss John Booth, who said the team’s bosses had noticed a big step forward in Chilton’s performance between his debut run for the team at Silverstone in July and FP1 at Yas Marina, added: “We have spent a significant amount of time evaluating his performances during 2012, both in our own car in a testing situation and also from the pitwall as we monitored his progress alongside the other members of our junior talent pool during Grand Prix support races. We felt confident enough in his ability and potential to appoint him to the role of Reserve Driver in September and since that time his development has been rapid in all aspects.”
Chilton’s confirmation comes hot on the heels of Lotus signing up Romain Grosjean for another season, meaning just two teams are still to reaveal their full line-ups for 2013 with a week to go before Christmas – Force India and Caterham.
Force India usually name their drivers for the following season shortly before the festive celebrations get underway, and with Paul di Resta a certainty to stay on, Adrian Sutil appears to have moved into prime position to make a return to the team after a 12-month absence, although Jules Bianchi, Bruno Senna and Jaime Alguersuari are also in the running.
One man who has ruled himself out of contention for Force India, and the sole vacant seat alongside Pic at Caterham, is Kamui Kobayashi who today announced that despite being in a position to bring a budget of around £6.5m from Japanese business and fan sources he had failed in his quest to find a drive for 2013, with his focus now set on returning the following year.
“If you could imagine the time I had, it was [an] overwhelming reaction and it shows there still is a great potential from Japanese companies,” the former Sauber driver said on his website. “Unfortunately, the time was still short and I am not able to secure the seat with [a] competitive F1 team for 2013.
“I have to admit that it is very sad and [I] feel sorry for fans and Japanese companies who supported me. But I am still confident to make it happen in 2014.”