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By John O'Brien
SEPANG, Malaysia (Reuters) - Marussia's Max Chilton is one of five Formula One rookies among the 22 drivers on the grid this season and while the Briton is still learning the art of being lapped he is confident he can make an impact.
Chilton was promoted from Marussia's GP2 team after coming fourth in that series last year and despite finishing a lowly 17th at the season-opener in Australia, the 21-year-old believes he is at the start of a long journey at the sport's elite level.
"I felt comfortable and ready when the decision was made that I got the race seat. This year, the Marussia car has a really good chance of moving up the field," Chilton told reporters on Thursday ahead of this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix.
"I feel at home, the team is fantastic and I have a good team mate (fellow rookie Jules Bianchi) to work with ... I can learn from him and he from me, it's a winning formula."
After enjoying life vying at the head of the field last season, with two wins among four podiums, Chilton admits that spending a race at the back of the pack was an experience he was learning to deal with.
"The team gave me some guidance during winter testing on the best way to get lapped and there is obviously an art," he said.
"In Melbourne, the blue flags started to come early, earlier than expected, but once I was used to it I could definitely find the best place where to let cars pass and make it a huge time saver.
"You don't want to disrupt the leaders as their race is more important than ours, but ours is still important. I have to do the best for the team in terms of not losing time. After the next couple of races, I will be more comfortable with it."
Like all rookies, Chilton is making a big leap in terms of the challenges presented at the highest level and the Marussia driver was keen to explain the main differences between what he has experienced before compared to this season.
"There's obviously a step up in terms of race length. Previously in GP2, I raced about an hour maximum and Formula One adds around an extra 40 minutes and that makes a lot of difference," he added.
"Physically, you just need to be more specific on the areas you work on. The main thing for races like this (Malaysia) is to make sure you are always hydrated. If you are not, you will suffer pretty quickly."
Chilton finished third in the GP2 feature race in Malaysia a year ago, so he is happy to be returning to a circuit where he has enjoyed some success after stepping into the unknown at Albert Park last week.
"Sepang is a very challenging circuit. Some high speed flying corners combined with some technical areas. It also has long straights but the main thing about this circuit is the heat," he said.
"It doesn't feel as hot as last year though so I can probably focus more on getting the most out of the car."
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)
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