Jules Bianchi was undoubtedly the driver of the weekend in Monaco after overcoming early struggles to secure a 9th place finish and Marussia’s first ever Formula One points.
The weekend began with despair, as the French driver started from 21st on the grid after a gearbox penalty. More bizarrely, there was to be more punishment from the stewards as his Marussia car started in the wrong grid position after Lotus’ Pastor Maldonado struggled on the formation lap. Bianchi was still 21st on the grid, but at the end of the race loomed a five second stop/go penalty.
Looking back, Bianchi understood the first punishment, but not the second, telling Sky Sports F1: “I don’t really know why I had the penalty. The first one I knew was because [Esteban] Gutierrez stopped in a position forward and Max [Chilton] did the same and when I saw that I wanted to do the same.” said the Frenchman. “Then I stopped and I was just in the same line as [Kamui] Kobayashi, which was not my line anyway so it was definitely a mistake. But the second one I do not know why.”
It was not to deter Bianchi though, who took advantage of the field’s errors and tactics to break into the top 10. Proving it was not a fluke, Bianchi demonstrated excellent driving as he passed Kamui Kobayashi with ease at Rascasse and later defended from the improving Romain Grojean of Lotus to hold on to his eighth position.
Bianchi crossed the line in eighth, but with the inclusion of his penalty, registered a ninth place finish.
He not only secured his first points of the season, but Marussia’s first points since the team’s creation as Virgin Racing back in 2010.
A delighted Bianchi said to ESPN: “We have been waiting for this and now that we have done it I am so proud of the team,” Bianchi said. “They did a really good job and I am really happy to give them the result.”
The Frenchman interestingly added that Barcelona testing was where the team turned the corner in his eyes. Most notably in that session, teammate Max Chilton set the fastest time in the first day. Describing the car as more balanced, the Frenchman felt his car could have gone into Q2 in qualifying for Monaco. The position was not to be, but it does show how far the driver feels Marrusia has come.
Praise came from close friend Fernando Alonso of Ferrari after the race. “It’s fantastic and I am happy for him,” Alonso said. “Jules is not only a Ferrari Academy guy, he is also a friend. I have no doubts it will be a good career, but hopefully with this result he can have a more competitive car next year and show his talents even more.”
Now, Sporting Director Graeme Lowdon is aiming for the team to get an eighth place finish next. The team have made a huge stride forward in Monaco, but it remains to be seen whether this is a flash in the pan or a sign of things to come, and whether Bianchi can get an even better finish than his career high of ninth in Monaco.