Rookie Report: Malaysian GP

Just to make sure the rookies really know what they’re in for, the season has started with back to back racing which barely gave them time to catch their breath from Australia before they were adjusting to the humidity in Malaysia. Even though the day was dominated by team orders, the rookies couldn’t hide their performances and some got the admiration they’ve dreamt of and others might have a bit of work to do. Nonetheless for a second race in a row all the rookies finished their races and they all improved on their original grid slot, albeit with a little help from a few high profile retirements.

Jules Bianchi

Qualifying

Race

Fastest Lap [gap*]

Jules Bianchi

19

13

1:42.423 [+3.224]

Max Chilton

21

16

1:43.150 [+3.951]

*gap to overall fastest lap [1:30.199]

It was another satisfying race from the young French driver in which is comfortably out performed his teammate at another circuit he has no experience at, last year at Force India his Friday test driving duties commenced in China. So before he took to the circuit for the first free practice he had no real life experience compared to his team mate who raced his last year on the GP2 season opener, a valid reason for being a little off the pace. But it wasn’t required, Bianchi showed his quality again to prove that his form in Australia was far from a a one off. Almost a second quicker than Pic in qualifying he was just two tenths off the pace of Bottas, a sign that he is out performing his machinery where Chilton was over a second behind. During the race it was apparent that Caterham had made some ground on Marussia, but Bianchi kept himself ahead of them both easily. To think he almost missed out on a seat this year.

– Bianchi was fined €2,800 for speeding in the pit lane in FP1, clocked at 74kph

Valtteri Bottas

Qualifying

Race

Fastest Lap [gap]

Valtteri Bottas

18

11

1:41.373 [+2.174]

Pastor Maldonado

16

19

1:43.465 [+4.266]

The Williams the Finn is running is not the one he was test driving last year at the same circuit, last years car was capable of winning and if reports are to be believed the team is casting a nostalgic eye over it with a possibility of bringing components back. How very McLaren of them. While his team mate fondly remembers his win during his off and KERS failure Bottas clawed his way from the back of the grid after a poor opening lap to just miss out on the points, but he was the only rookie not to be lapped, a silver lining for the Finn. Definitely an improvement from his last outing, what has become clear is that this driver certainly has the skills, now he needs a car to show it off in.

Max Chilton

Qualifying

Race

Fastest Lap [gap]

Jules Bianchi

19

13

1:42.423 [+3.224]

Max Chilton

21

16

1:43.150 [+3.951]

What Chilton has to do this year is keep tabs on Bianchi and not let him scamper off into the distance, because if he’s not careful he won’t do enough to warrant attention for 2014. Some of the gaps aren’t exactly representative of outright pace, for example in qualifying a small off widened the gap between him and Bianchi, so it is certainly not all doom and gloom. However, after a less than perfect start to his race on Sunday he only managed to show flashes of good pace before having to settle for being the last driver across the line and being lapped twice. It was another tough weekend weather wise, so with hopes that the rain will leave China alone, it will be great to see Chilton and Bianchi go head to head in the dry.

Giedo van der Garde

Qualifying

Race

Fastest Lap [gap]

Giedo van der Garde

22

15

1:43.157 [+3.958]

Charles Pic

20

14

1:42.952 [+3.753]

After spending practice there or there abouts with Pic, the gap widened slightly in qualifying where Pic took top billing within the team by around six tenths, but gaps can be deceiving and it’s more like half that. Even those he started at the back of the grid it didn’t mean he stayed there and he spent the latter stages of his race in a tussle with Chilton which he won on lap 31 with a help of the British driver pitting. Nevertheless it was an important hold for Caterham in the inter-team battle with Marussia. When Pic had his incident in the pitlane with Vergne it gave van der Garde the opportunity to finish ahead of his team mate but he was unable to take advantage of the mishap.

Esteban Gutierrez

Qualifying

Race

Fastest Lap [gap]

Esteban Gutierrez

14

12

1:40.929 [+1.73]

Nico Hulkenberg

12

8

1:40.727 [+1.528]

With Hulkenberg able to start the race this time around Gutierrez had some direct competition on track, and with the German performing as Sauber expected he left his young Mexican team mate in the shadows somewhat. Throughout practice on Friday and Saturday they stayed fairly close to each other but some thought more could have been given by the rookie in qualifying, nevertheless his quiet race was compounded by Hulkenberg’s exciting battle with Raikkonen. His objective this year, like any other rookie, is to prove himself capable of giving his team mate a hard time on track, however for Gutierrez he’s going up against someone tipped for future championship glory.

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