MARUSSIA Virgin Racing’s sporting director and team principal John Booth expects the Dinnington-based team to be competing at the back of the grid for the opening three races of the new season.
He admits they have reassessed their targets following a gruelling pre-season testing schedule.
In the opening three flyaway races in Australia, Malaysia and Turkey, Booth has told The Star he wants drivers Timo Glock and new boy Jerome d’Ambrosio to focus on finishing the grand prixs.
He has also conceded Marussia are unlikely to reach the second phase of knockout qualifying (Q2) until the British Grand Prix in July.
It is a major reality check for Marussia, who had hoped to be challenging Torro Rosso and Sauber in the middle of the pack.
“For the first three to four races, we will be in a similar position to what we were in last year,” said Booth.
“I think we will have to wait until the European season before we make the big steps.
“It is frustrating we are behind where we wanted to be. But our priority is to build a reliable car and I feel we have achieved that.
“We didn’t get any sort of reliabilty in the first five to six races in 2010 and that let us down.
“We didn’t get two cars home until Valencia and that was in June.
“We feel we have built a reliable car and now we will focus on the upgrades to make us more competitive.”
In Barcelona last week, d’Ambrosio completed 46 laps of the Circuit de Catalunya bringing Marussia’s pre-season testing mileage tally to 4642kms, more than double the figure for last year.
“The testing has been invaluable to us and we have gathered a lot of information and detail from it,” said Booth. “It will be challenging pace wise for us but I am looking forward to getting out there (Australia) and planning a race strategy without thinking whether anything is going to go pop.”
Booth also confirmed Glock will be fit for the curtain-raiser in Melbourne after having surgery to remove his appendix earlier this month. He also went on to say Marussia will unveil a new car upgrade before the Turkish GP.