- Max Chilton's ESPN column
A bit of a dream day
First of all, welcome to this column, which I'll be compiling between now and the end of the season, and which will hopefully give you some insight in to the role of a reserve driver . Things have moved very fast since I was announced as the reserve at Marussia after the Singapore Grand Prix, but this weekend in Abu Dhabi was a very special one for me as I made my first FP1 appearance.
I hadn't been able to stop smiling since the team confirmed I'd get a run at the Yas Marina circuit, and it's a track I know well from GP2 and last year's Young Driver Test for Force India. As they day got closer you start to think about things a little bit more out of your control; I was confident in my own ability but it's things like traffic when you're in a car that's a bit slower relative to the rest of the field that you can't really prepare for.
I must admit I was a little bit nervous beforehand but not too bad because I've been with the team so much and have driven the car before. I think it was just the anticipation that was getting to me and as soon as I put the helmet on I was fine. I just enjoyed it and you don't have any time to think about anything else; you just have to do the job in hand. I did a couple of runs which the team wanted me to do and they went fine, and then I got a couple of runs at the end where I could see what the car could do which went really well. The team were really happy with my speed so it was a bit of a dream day really.
Obviously I had to do two runs at the start for the team which took the life out of the tyres. Then I got to have a go and I was within a second of Timo Glock in the other car and the tyres were really starting to go off. But on my last lap I managed to pull out two sectors - I don't know where from - and I was four tenths up coming in to the last sector when I caught an HRT, which just blocked me.
I was desperate to finish the lap and I didn't know which way to go past, so I dived down the inside but it made the corner far too tight and I carried the same speed as usual so I had to get on full opposite lock to catch the car and call it a day. The team think I could have been within half a second of Timo at the end, which I would have been even happier happy with.
After the session it was a sense of relief, you want your first appearance to go well because that's the one that everybody is looking at. It went better than I thought it would so it was a really good experience and I just want another go now!
For the rest of the weekend I had a better understanding of what the drivers were telling the engineers in the briefings because I had the same feelings when I was in the car. As a result I could get a lot more involved with the meetings, which is good experience.
Also on top of that I had to do a lot of PR and press - especially on the Saturday - as the British media took a real interest in my practice debut. It is a new side of the sport that I have to learn but it was absolutely fine. I got a lot of TV coverage in the UK through the BBC and Sky and I think I was in a lot of papers too, and of course now I'm on ESPNF1.com so it was just good to get my name out there.
The race itself though was highly nerve-wracking for all of us at the team because of where Caterham were. They were running 13th with 15 laps to go and if they had gained one place then they would have taken 10th place off us in the championship so everyone was sat with their fingers crossed but luckily we held on to 10th. There was a sense of relief in the team at the end of the weekend; obviously we still have two races to go but that was more than close!