John Booth says Marussia in their best shape yet heading into 2013 Australian GP

While British rookie Max Chilton feels well prepared for debut

By James Galloway.   Last Updated: 11/03/13 1:53pm

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Marussia: Enjoyed a very positive winter of testing

Marussia: Enjoyed a very positive winter of testing

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Marussia chief John Booth believes his team heads into the season-opening grand prix of 2013 in their "best shape ever" following an encouraging winter testing programme with the MR02.

After heading to Melbourne 12 months ago having missed all three official group tests, the Banbury-based team have already laid a far stronger foundation for their fourth year on the grid after running their new car on all 12 days of testing in Spain.

Many observers have predicted Marussia are poised to be on a par, or even ahead, of traditional rivals Caterham right from the off in Australia and Booth, their Team Principal, admits they have every reason to be optimistic.

"Although certain aspects of our winter were quite challenging, the overwhelming feeling we take into the Australian Grand Prix is great optimism," he said.

"In many ways we are in our best shape ever as a team and everyone is thriving on that and looking forward to what we hope will be a positive 19-race journey ahead. Our new package has performed well in pre-season testing, with encouraging signs in terms of performance and reliability.

"It is still too early to fully appreciate the progress we have made for 2013, as that wide picture has a habit of revealing itself in Melbourne, but we make the long journey there this weekend feeling confident in our direction."

However, while the team begin their fourth year of F1, the Australian GP represents debut races at the top level for their all-new rookie driver line-up - Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi.

With uncertainty over the identity of his team-mate for much of the winter, British youngster Chilton was able to complete more test days than any other driver in the field and insists he feels well equipped to tackle a Grand Prix weekend for the first time.

"I can't wait for Australia and the start of my debut season," the 21-year-old said.

"The past few weeks of pre-season testing have flown by, but I've spent a lot of time in the car working on so many different things that I feel totally prepared for what lies ahead now.

"We gathered a lot of information with the MR02 in Jerez and Barcelona and at every stage it has been possible to see the benefit of all that learning and development. I hope to continue that in the opening races."

And while Albert Park is one of several tracks Chilton hasn't driven on before prior to his rookie campaign, the Briton added: "I think we have a good car for Melbourne but it is vital that we keep pushing forward. It's my first time in Australia, so I'm looking forward to the experience of Albert Park and the rest of the city, as I've heard so many great things about the place and the atmosphere. It's going to be quite a weekend."

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