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Marussia's next step - Achievement unlocked, but now what?

Published by Christine

Marussia’s celebrations after scoring their first ever Formula One championship points in Monaco were a breath of fresh air in what was otherwise a tense and hostile weekend. The glee of the small team was akin to a win, as Jules Bianchi helped steer the team to eighth on track, ninth in the results, picking up two very important points.

Bianchi on a points high
Credit: Marussia F1 Team

The points haul has moved them to ninth in the constructor standings, pulling a healthy gap over backmarker rivals Caterham. The battle over who of the no-longer new teams would get points on the board is well and truly over, with Marussia leaving their competitors in the dust.

The question now is, where do Marussia go from here? The team admitted they couldn’t afford to celebrate in Monaco, so likely the champagne quaffing and party atmosphere was delayed until they returned to the factory. But when the glasses are dry and the floor littered with the remnants of party poppers, what’s the next step for the Banbury-based squad?

Luck or judgement

It’s easy to pass off this weekend’s result as a lucky break for Marussia. It’s Monaco, and there were eight retirements which helped boost Bianchi up into the top ten. It wasn’t all down to good fortune, as the team have shown impressive reliability which has allowed them to be in the box seats when other cars failed. Whilst not demonstrating the out and out pace of the top teams, they had enough in the bank to be up there in the points paying positions despite several penalties, taken both in the race and afterwards.

And yet, it’s clear this was more of a fluke than a major pick up in performance. Marussia have been working hard, pulling away from Caterham, trying their best to close the gap to teams ahead. The midfield are still a good second or two away, though, and the front runners even further. This was more than evident when Bianchi’s goal in the closing laps was to create a buffer between himself and Romain Grosjean. The leading Frenchman knew he had a five second time penalty hanging over his head, and could only keep his tenth place points position by keeping the Lotus far enough behind.

Grosjean very quickly closed the gap, and although he couldn't make the pass - likely due to the nature of the circuit they were racing on - it was enough for Bianchi to drop behind once the post-race penalty was enforced. Luckily Kimi Räikkönen and Kevin Magnussen both dropped out of the top ten in the final stages, keeping Marussia in contention for their moment of glory.

Let's not forget, also, that Max Chilton's performance was more of what we have come to expect from the Marussia team. The Brit has been riding on the statistic that he's finished every single race he's entered, and there was no change in Monaco. Unfortunately, he was also three laps down by the time the chequered flag dropped. Slow and steady really doesn't win the race, not even at Monaco.

Messing with the order of things

Marussia cannot expect to repeat the better half of their performance at many more circuits this year. Canada may prove an unpredictable event, and there may be high attrition at some of the more endurance or unknown events, such as Singapore or Russia. But otherwise, there’s nothing to suggest anything has fundamentally changed for the team, and that has to bring them back down to earth with a bump.

It will be a motivational sight to see Sauber sitting snugly behind them on the standings table, the Swiss team so far failing to get any points in the 2014 season. That though is more of a reflection on the poor performance from Hinwil compared to the rest, but still it helps Marussia put some distance between themselves and Caterham.

It also can’t hurt that the future of the green team has been in doubt for most of the season, with an increase in such rumours during the Monaco weekend. Tony Fernandes has tried to quash the speculation with a denial of sale, but his ultimatum at the start of the season had Caterham on the back foot from the outset.

The other guy in the Marussia
Credit: Marussia F1 Team

With the HRT team long gone, and Caterham floundering in a sea of doubt, it can only strengthen the resolve of Marussia to find themselves the last new team standing. More entrants are on the cards, with the FIA opening up the grid in 2015, so they won't find themselves branded as a new team anymore, which will also lift the spirits.

Motivation won’t be hard to come by over the next few weeks, but knowing how to harness that energy will be key. Gaining the first F1 point was a challenging but modest aim. Now that it has been achieved, what’s next? Aim higher in the championship standings? Or simply more points? Two top ten finishes in a row? Both cars in the points? I’m curious to find out what the Marussia roadmap looks like now they’ve hit their first huge milestone.