Chilton out to silence doubters

  • Last Updated: March 6 2013, 10:41 GMT

It naturally irks Max Chilton to be described as a spoilt rich-kid who has only made his way into Formula One thanks to his father's money.

Max Chilton: Wants to make the most of his opportunity
Max Chilton: Wants to make the most of his opportunity

True, as chairman of insurance giants Aon Benfield and vice-chairman of the Aon Group, Grahame Benfield has played a prominent role in his son's burgeoning career.

After all, it was not for nothing the name 'Aon' featured on the GP2 car the younger Chilton drove to two victories and fourth in the championship last season.

But according to Chilton, it is there his father stopped playing the role of wealthy benefactor, impressing upon Max that if he wanted an F1 seat with Marussia, he would have to find other sponsors willing to bankroll his step up into the big time.

After initially securing the role of reserve in late September last year, and then being afforded his first taste of an F1 weekend when he drove in opening practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix six weeks later, Chilton did exactly that.

Given the prevailing financial climate it was not an easy task, but by mid-December - and with Charles Pic having departed Marussia for Caterham a few weeks earlier- the team confirmed Chilton as one of their drivers for this year.

As the fourth Briton on the grid, and racing for a team that has yet to score a point in three years in F1, Chilton quite clearly faces a thankless task.

Indeed all Chilton can really do is prove he is worthy of his place in F1.

"There are plenty of pay drivers on the grid and, in my experience, the sport has never changed," said Chilton.

"I think it's always been that way, and it probably will always be that way. Some of the legends in our sport had to bring backing to get into it in the first place.

"But the one thing I can say is teams will always look at talent first.

"They want to see you can put it on pole position and then win races in junior categories.

"If you've managed both of those, it's then about how you use your opportunity in F1, how you learn from the best and become the best driver possible.

"No team's going to let you behind the wheel if you're not up to it."

There are those who would point out - and it is unusual - that en route to F1 Chilton has never been champion of any series, even in karting.

In contrast to many of his contemporaries, the 21-year-old from Reigate in Surrey was a late developer, not starting in karting until the age of 10.

Yet on the weekend of his 16th birthday he made motor sport history when he became the youngest driver ever in the prestigious British F3 series.

Those formative years of open-wheel racing were tough for Chilton because he never had the opportunity of driving for a front-running team, managing just one win and seven other podiums in 62 races.

But then, as has often been the case throughout his career, he has had to compete alongside those much older and with more experience, a situation he will again face this season.

It was the same when he joined GP2 in 2010, initially with newcomers Ocean Racing Technology. Being a rookie in a fledgling team naturally posed its own problems.

It was the same story in 2011 when he switched to Carlin. It was not until the team received backing from Marussia last year he proved his talent.

After a slow start, Chilton accumulated more points than his rivals over the second half of the season during which he claimed two poles and two races wins.

Having driven for Marussia in the young driver test at Silverstone in July, it came as no surprise when the promotion to the team's reserve was announced over the weekend of the Singapore Grand Prix.

Six months on, Chilton will line up on the grid for the season-opening race in Australia on March 17 alongside fellow Britons Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton and Paul di Resta, adamant he has every right to be there.

"For years I've always looked up to them, so it's going to be weird to be on track with them," said Chilton.

"But I wouldn't have made the step up if I wasn't ready, and I hope we can have a few battles along the way.

"I believe after my two wins and two poles in GP2 last year I am ready. I know I can do it."

As for the goal, well, that is obvious.

"After three long, hard seasons in F1 the team are yet to score a point," added Chilton.

"If I can score their first points then that will be an incredible feeling."


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