SOCHI, Russia - Marussia looks set to revert to a two-car operation in the upcoming American F1 GP in Austin, Texas.
SILENT TRIBUTE: Marussia driver Jules Bianchi's (inset) car sits wheelsless in the Marussia garage at the Sochi Autodrom, its driver still lying unconscious in a Japanese hospital. Image: AFP / Pavel Golovkin
On Sunday Max Chilton went it alone while seriously injured driver Jules Bianchi's sister car sat dormant, Chilton admitted it had been "an incredibly tough week" for the entire team.
Boss John Booth is still at Bianchi's bedside in Japan, leaving Graeme Lowdon to deny rumours late on Sunday that Chilton had retired after just 10 laps at Sochi because he was overcome by grief.
'VERY IMPORTANT POSITION'
Despite Marussia's contractual obligations, Bernie Ecclestone and the international Automobile Federation allowed the team to sit Bianchi's car out in Russia out of respect for the stricken Frenchman. It was, however, a risk not to run the second car in Russia, given Marussia's lucrative ninth place position at present in the crucial Constructors' standings.
Lowdon agreed. "It's a very important position for us and we're largely in that position because of Jules. We thought the right thing to do was to come here, take part in the event, but, as a mark of support to Jules and as a mark of respect to his mum and dad and to Jules' family, withdraw the second car."
It is likely, however, that Marussia will now revert to a two-car operation for the decisive last three GP's of the season, starting with Austin on November 2.
Bianchi's crash came at the worst possible time for Marussia, with the back-marker team struggling financially. The Times reported that main investor, Andrey Cheglakov, a Russian, was at Sochi for the inaugural race but there was "no word" whether he would keep the team alive for another year.
Defending ninth place in the championship from similarly struggling Caterham appears to be the team's best play. Lowdon explained: The London Daily Mirror quoted him as saying: "The best thing we can do for Jules and the family is really to try to protect the position he gave us in the championship.
"It (Monaco) was a really great drive and that got us something really valuable in sporting terms."
Chief engineer Dave Greenwood also hinted that Marussia, likely to field its Californian reserve Alexander Rossi, would be back on track with two cars for Austin and beyond. He said on Sunday in Russia: "At some stage we will need to look ahead to the remaining races but for now we're pleased to be heading home."