Max Chilton Bucharest review

Max had an exciting and competitive trip to Eastern Europe for the latest rounds of the International Series, held around the demanding street circuit of the Romanian capital, Bucharest. He achieved a strong 6th place finish in an incident packed first race, but couldn’t capitalize on an excellent start in the second, after being knocked off when going for 3rd place early on……..

He finished the weekend with points from both the races and moved up a place in the championship battle. Content with his 6th place in the first race, Max was frustrated in the second after contact with John Martin and Brendon Hartley forced him to miss out a corner, dropping down the order and eventually succumbing to a collision with Sergio Perez. He had to pit for a new nose cone to be fitted and was given a drive through penalty, but he still managed to bring his Hitech Racing Dallara Mercedes Benz home in 10th place in the International Class, claiming the last available point.

Right from the first session of practice on Friday, Max showed he had the pace to perform around the unforgiving track. Without using new tyres and staying well away from the walls in the first session he was still quick and with new rubber in the second, ran comfortably in the top six. Saturday morning’s 30-minute qualifying saw 17 year-old Max, the youngest driver on the grid, repeat his Friday practice form to post the sixth quickest time, despite having just one clear flying lap. 

That afternoon’s race was going to test the driver’s stamina as well as skills with the field lining up on the grid in 37 degree heat. Max made an excellent start and went wheel to wheel with Sam Abay up to the first chicane. The Australian driver squeezed Max against the wall and he backed off rather than risk damaging his suspension. He kept his 6th place from the opening lap right through to the chequered flag. A couple of safety car periods halved the race’s scheduled number of laps and Max never got an opportunity to challenge for a higher place in what was a fairly processional race.

After the race Max was in positive mood and pleased with the day’s results;

“Inevitably on street circuits you’re going to get a lot of accidents and that caused me a few problems in qualifying. You’d get a good start to the lap then you have to ease off because of the yellow flags but after almost 25 minutes I managed to get a clear run on my last lap and qualified sixth. In the race I got a really good start but then the safety car came out and even though it’s so hot, it’s hard to keep the tyre temperatures up but I managed to hold the position to the flag.  I’m more used to the track now so looking ahead to second qualifying tomorrow, I hope to be able to improve on that position and get another good finish in the race.”

The second of the qualifying sessions took place on Sunday morning before that afternoon’s second race. Max now showed even more pace, the BRDC Superstar qualifying 5th and having been fastest for some of the session was optimistic for another good result in the race.

Max made a superb start to pass first race winner Brendon Hartley off the line and grabbed 4th place at the first corner. A couple of laps into the race he saw an opportunity to gain another place as John Martin clipped a kerb and was slow exiting the final chicane. Max dived to the outside and inched past under braking for the last corner. Unfortunately there was contact between Martin and Hartley who had dived up the inside. The pair cannoned into Max, knocking the youngster wide and forcing him to miss out the corner altogether. That had dropped him back into the reach of Perez, the Mexican driver trying everything to get past Max who was trying to get some grip back into his dirty tyres following the off track excursion. Perez even drove into the back of him on several occasions – breaking Max’s rear diffuser and wing endplate in the process.

The battle raged on for a few laps before Perez got a better exit than Max onto the front straight and dragged past as the pair approached the first corner. Max was in no mood to give in, but Perez forced him towards the wall and he had to try and take avoiding action on the dirty inside of the track. He locked his brakes and slid into the back of the Mexican’s car, spinning Perez off the track. Max continued although he lost a few places, but he had broken the front wing and had to pit for a spare to be fitted. A safety car period allowed Max to close up on the back of the field, but he was given a drive-through penalty for his part in the Perez incident and he had to pit again therefore, a couple of laps later.

Max took to the track again and continued to the flag, taking the final available point for finishing 10th in the International Class. The races in Bucharest had consolidated his 9th place in the championship and his 2nd place in the British Formula 3 Challenge Cup. Max has almost secured the runners up position in that competition after taking 10 points from the two races in Romania and now needs just one more point in the races at Donington Park in seven weeks time to finish the season ahead of Nick Tandy in the British driver’s standings.

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