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Bianchi stars as Marussia close on Q2

Mar 23, 2013, 6:00 AM EST

F1 Grand Prix of Malaysia - Practice Getty Images

Jules Bianchi had another impressive outing for Marussia in qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix on Saturday, missing out on Q2 by just 0.497 seconds.

The French driver had shown good pace in practice before qualifying, and he admitted that he felt at home in Sepang despite it being his first visit to the circuit. This good form continued into qualifying as he finished 19th ahead of teammate Max Chilton and both Caterham drivers.

Bianchi was the last driver to post a time during the dry first qualifying session, and he crossed the line to finish 0.880 seconds ahead of Charles Pic. Perhaps an even greater feat was the gap to Valtteri Bottas. The Williams driver qualified 18th, less than 0.250s ahead of Bianchi despite driving for a team which won a race in 2012.

The only rookie to make it into Q2 was Esteban Gutierrez for Sauber, finishing four-tenths clear of the drop zone. He was eventually caught out by the rain that fell midway through the second session, but he will be happy to start 14th on the grid tomorrow.

However, Jules Bianchi is quickly becoming the stand-out rookie from the class of 2013. If he can continue this good form throughout the season, Marussia will have a fight on their hands to retain him for 2014.

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