With a best GP2 finish so far this year of 14th place, Max Chilton is a long way from troubling the championship front-runners – but the 19-year-old Surrey racer believes this season is an investment in his future success.
Consistently among the youngest competitors wherever he drives, Chilton made his Formula Three début as a 16-year-old and is conceding years of experience to many of his new rivals in GP2, the main feeder series for Formula One.
He told BritsOnPole.com: “It’s definitely a learning year – it’s a big step. I’ve only done two classes of single-seater racing so it’s a big jump. There are a lot of rookies in there but they are older than me, 21 or 22.”
This inexperience showed in qualifying at Monaco, where he said he was running second – and hopeful of his prospects at a circuit where overtaking is difficult – when a late yellow flag disrupted the session. As he tells it, he obediently slowed while wiser rivals did not, and he ended up 16th on the grid.
He said: “It’s all about qualifying and my qualifying hasn’t been great. I’m just really looking forward to getting the experience this year.”
Last season Chilton, the younger brother of touring car star Tom, finished as the top-ranked home driver in the British F3 International Series and closed the campaign with an impressive Brands Hatch victory over the new champion, Red Bull F1 reserve Daniel Ricciardo.
He graduated from that into the GP2 Asia series, first with Barwa Addax and then with ex-F1 driver Tiago Monteiro’s Ocean Racing Technology team, staying with the latter for the step up into the main GP2 series.
At Barcelona he finished 18th and 16th, with the team describing the weekend as complicated but “important for his progression”.
In Monaco he was eliminated from the opening race in a first-corner crash, ensuring he started the second at the back. The team described his rise from 24th at the start to 14th at the finish as “a remarkable result”.
“All was good on Saturday,” said Chilton in a statement released by the team. “I found a good race pace and I made up several positions. The car was difficult to handle in the final stages but you can expect that on such a demanding track on the tyres.”