Caterham face struggle to become points contenders

2013 F1 season preview

Giedo van der Garde, Caterham, Jerez, 2013Four new teams were granted entries to the 2010 world championship. US F1 didn’t even make it to the first race, HRT collapsed after three seasons. That leaves Caterham and Marussia as the only survivors.

Caterham (who raced as Lotus in 2010 and 2011) have always been the better-funded of the two. They’re now in their third year with Renault engines and Red Bull gearboxes, and their second season using KERS.

Given that, there’s understandable disappointment that the team are yet to score their first point and only narrowly beat Marussia last year.

The team’s move to a new technical base last year has brought them geographically closer to their rivals. But reducing the gap between them on the track is proving a stubbornly difficult task.

Replacing the experienced partnership of Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov with an all-new driver line-up is not going to make that easier. Team principal Cyril Abiteboul has distanced himself from owner Tony Fernandes’s previous claims that the team were on the cusp of their first points finish.

“On the surface it may look like we?re starting 2013 in a similar position to 2012, but inside the team it is very different,” said Abiteboul.

“We have a base in Oxfordshire in which we now control all elements of the design and production in-house. The wind tunnel we use has been upgraded to meet our exact specifications and is now producing results that turn into definite improvements.”

“We are continuing to improve the efficiencies and working practices within the team so we can compete both on track and as a viable business with a secure long-term future and we are bringing in talented people at all levels to keep pushing us forwards.”

The minimum reward for that has to be keeping ahead of Marussia, who it nearly lost out to in 2012. But hoping for more than that at the moment seems unrealistic.

Car 20: Charles Pic

Charles Pic, Caterham, Circuit de Catalunya, 2013Charles Pic joins the team from Marussia after a quietly impressive debut season. He often qualified well and put pressure on team mate Timo Glock.

With a new driver (and former GP2 team mate) alongside him, Pic finds himself in the role of team leader. His year’s experience will be a valuable asset to Caterham in what is likely to be a year-long contest between them and Marussia.

Car 21: Giedo van der Garde

Giedo van der Garde has been on the periphery of Formula One for a long time.

Though he clearly has talent – he won the Formula Renault 3.5 category in 2008 – he is fortunate to have had sustained backing from the likes of MacGregor that have allowed him to make his long-awaited ascent to Formula One.

Van der Garde’s appearances for the team in practice sessions last year has helped him build a rapport with them. But racing at the back of the grid will be an adjustment after four years of finishing in the top ten in GP2.

Caterham CT03

Caterham championship form

2012 2013
Championship position 10
Wins 0

Caterham in 2013: Your view

Will Caterham finally score their first point in 2013? What do you think of the team’s all-new driver line-up? Have your say in the comments.

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28 comments on Caterham face struggle to become points contenders

  1. BasCB (@bascb) said on 12th March 2013, 12:42

    I just lolled at the graph, thinking there was something wrong. Then I realized it has been the first year of this team as Caterham and there is not more than a dot on each graph :-)

    As Keith writes, they will probably have to be satisfied with the odd chance to get into Q2 due to circumstances and staying ahead of Marussia in the WCC.

  2. msoerensen (@msoerensen) said on 12th March 2013, 12:43

    Their livery brings up fond memories of Jaguar Racing. :-)

  3. David not Coulthard (@) said on 12th March 2013, 12:44

    @keithcollantine The graph look hillarious!

  4. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 12th March 2013, 12:53

    Sadly Caterham seems to be the team that has improved least over the winter. Their car looked difficult to drive in winter testing (or so I believe people said), and given the significant improvements of all the other midfielders, it looks like they are 1, maybe 2 seconds removed from the back-end of the midfield. To make matters worse, their regular sparring partners Marussia seem to have steadily improved (by actually having the new car for winter testing, for example), so they could find themselves completely at the back for the first time in their short history.

    For a team as Caterham, though, the outright pace of the car, especially at the beginning of the season, is not that relevant. It is already clear that they are not going to fight for points on merit this season, so the only goal the team can realistically set itself is to score one better result than Marussia.

  5. Fer no.65 (@fer-no65) said on 12th March 2013, 12:54

    LOL a tthe graph haha !

  6. Garns (@) said on 12th March 2013, 12:56

    I agree with your comments Keith they will no doubt struggle again but SURLEY can grab a point somewhere along the line….. or at least bridge the gap to the mid field (which have all, of course, promised to forge forward- leaving the back markers further behind again).

    I am looking forward to see if Charles Pic puts on a better showing in the Caterham over the Marussia. A step up but maybe only slightly. Very similar to people’s perception of The Hulk’s move, which personally think was a good one and more in the Sauber for sure.

  7. Roald (@roald) said on 12th March 2013, 13:01

    The hideous nose alone makes it very hard to cheer for this team when there’s plenty of other cars that look a whole lot better this year.

  8. Coronis (@coronis) said on 12th March 2013, 13:19

    Dumping Kovalainen and Petrov was not a wise choice.

  9. Dan Brown (@danbrown180) said on 12th March 2013, 13:29

    I was really rooting for Caterham last year, but I’m struggling to like them this year. Not sure if it’s to do with Heikki leaving, or the general feeling they’re going backwards. Now that Marussia have KERS and have dropped Razia, I can see them sailing past and maybe even challenging Toro Rosso, while Caterham languish

    (Obviously, I don’t think Max Chilton will challenge Toro Rosso)

    • petebaldwin (@petebaldwin) said on 12th March 2013, 14:18

      Last year, Kovalainen was clearly the best driver for Caterham or Marussia. This year, I’d argue the fastest is Bianchi so that’s already 1-0 to Marussia. They seem closely matched on pace following testing and whilst Caterham will be demotivated to see they haven’t caught up to the midfield, Marussia will be spured on to see that they have a great chance to beat Catherham.

  10. Tango (@tango) said on 12th March 2013, 14:29

    I hadn’t noticed before, but GE, Safran, Airbus… Those are huge companies (very aeronauticaly centered but still, potentially very deep pockets). Let’s hope Fernandes’ business is stronger than Mallya’s, and here goes for Caterham, they need all the luck they can get.

  11. Ivan B (@njoydesign) said on 12th March 2013, 15:14

    I still hate them for dropping Petrov. Although after seeing the car I started to think they actually did him a favour.

  12. Ben (@scuderia29) said on 12th March 2013, 15:32

    i think theyll be at the very back this year, the new HRT. I dont see any chance of them scoring a point, and in regards to the livery that everyone thinks looks so good…i think its the worst livery theyve had since coming into the sport, 2010, 2011 & 2012 all had a better designed livery

  13. socksolid (@socksolid) said on 12th March 2013, 16:39

    I’d be incredibly surprised to see either caterham or marussia to score points this year. The whole battle for 10th position is also getting kinda rediculous imho when neither of these teams can not compete with anyone else in any meaningful way. Even with broken cars the midfield is still too fast for these grid fillers…

    • Minardi (@gitanes) said on 14th March 2013, 2:45

      I’d be surprised too if they score a point, but they still need to be there. We’re sooooo spoiled these days having so many teams that are within 1 to 2 seconds of pole every race and usually always finish. Really, if reliability keeps going at the same rate we’ve seen in recent years, then we might as well have 15 point scorers so at least we can keep track of the standings properly instead of wondering which team has the highest non-points scoring finish!

      Don’t forget Alonso didn’t score any points in his entire maiden season yet gained almost as much praise for his efforts as Raikkonen did. I’ll be thinking of that when watching Bianchi and Pic this year fight it out at the back this year.

  14. verstappen (@verstappen) said on 12th March 2013, 18:27

    Bring on rain and chaos!

  15. AlonsoWDC (@alonsowdc) said on 12th March 2013, 19:44

    Dropping Petrov is the smartest thing any team did in the past offseason.

    • @alonsowdc – I actually think Petrov did a very solid job against someone who is widely considered to be much better than him. Nonetheless, I didn’t want either of them kept, although they would’ve been better off retaining their previous line-up than their current one I think.

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