Rotherham’s Booth heading in right direction as Bianchi grabs wheel

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Team principal John Booth insists Marussia are in their “best shape ever” heading into the new Formula 1 season, despite the late shake-up.

The Banbury-based marque – who began life as Virgin Racing in Dinnington, Yorkshire, in 2010 – certainly appeared to make strides in winter testing, notably given the fact the car now has KERS on board for the first time.

Behind the scenes, however, their driver line-up proved problematic as they were forced to replace their replacement.

In dispensing with the experienced services of Timo Glock, and making no bones about the fact they needed a pay driver, last season’s GP2 runner-up Luiz Razia was initially given the call. The young Brazilian, however, was let down by his sponsors.

With just two testing days remaining, Marussia then turned to Jules Bianchi, whose disappointment in being overlooked for the seat at Force India quickly turned into elation in finally getting into F1.

Booth, from Rotherham, said: “Although certain aspects of our winter were quite challenging, the overwhelming feeling we take into the race is great optimism.

“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 journey ahead.

“Our new package has performed well in testing, with encouraging signs in terms of performance and reliability, and we also have two very exciting young drivers in the car.

“Whilst they are both rookies, their combined depth of experience rising through the ranks in the junior formulae and in F1-supported young driver programmes leaves them well placed.

“It is still too early to fully appreciate the progress we have made for 2013, as that picture has a habit of revealing itself in Melbourne, but we are feeling confident in our direction.”