Caterham’s “final chance” to deliver points

2014 F1 season preview

Kamui Kobayashi, Caterham, Bahrain, 2014

Caterham has “established itself on track since the start of its first season as the best of the three new teams who joined the sport in 2010″, according to the team’s press kit for the new season.

That was a straightforward case to make about this team until last year, when they slipped to last in the constructors’ championship behind Marussia. But it’s fair to say that following a rough start to their 2013 campaign they were usually the more competitive of the two teams.

Still that’s no consolation to team owner Tony Fernandes who is demanding results as Caterham (formerly Lotus) enters its fifth season. In January he warned it was their “final chance” to deliver.

The small team had to make sacrifices last year to prepare adequately for the 2014 regulations overhaul. In particular, the decision to replace its experienced driver line-up with a a pair which only had a single season in F1 between them compromised their development, and soon led to the part-time return of Heikki Kovalainen for practice work.

Kovalainen was tipped to make a return to the racing side of the team this year. But Fernandes decided not to restore the driver who was with the team for their first campaign in 2010 – a decision influenced in part by Kovalainen’s unsuccessful two-race spell as Kimi Raikkonen’s understudy at Lotus.

Instead Caterham hired Kamui Kobayashi, who brings some backing thanks to the generosity of his supporters. And as a former Toyota test and race driver, he is already on good terms with many of the ex-Toyota staff who joined this team four years ago.

Nonetheless Kobayashi has some familiarisation to do and has not held back on describing the car’s shortcoming. During testing he remarked he would be more competitive at the opening rounds if he turned up with a GP2 car.

Marcus Ericsson, Caterham, Jerez, 2014Joining Kobayashi in Caterham’s second all-new driver pairing in as many seasons in Marcus Ericsson.

Sweden’s first Formula One driver in 23 years arrives from GP2, where in four seasons of racing he showed too little of the potential which had been evident earlier in his single-seater career. He had little F1 experience prior to this season but has had a decent amount of time behind the wheel in testing.

In Robin Frijns, Caterham’s drivers have one of the most highly-rated junior drivers breathing down their necks, eager for a chance to show what he can do in the car. Caterham have already taken the unusual step of running him in two of the pre-season tests, and many would like to see what the 2012 Formula Renault 3.5 champion could do in a race seat.

Caterham have coped better with the Renault engine’s shortcomings than their fellow users, logging well over 3,000km of running. But the CT05 has shown little pace and while its generous rear dimensions may aid the cooling of the problematic Energy F1 power unit, it’s not hard to see where they might be giving away performance to their rivals.

However early-season reliability might be just the ticket for them to finally score an overdue point and begin the long haul into the midfield pack.

Caterham’s F1 record

http://www.f1fanatic.co.uk/charts/stats.csv

2012 2013
Championship position 10 11
Points 0 0
Wins 0 0
Pole positions 0 0

Over to you

Do you think Caterham will finally score a point this year? Have your say in the comments.

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22 comments on Caterham’s “final chance” to deliver points

  1. GeeMac (@geemac) said on 3rd March 2014, 11:16

    I wonder if Fernandes will follow through on his threat if Caterham don’t score points. He is more than happy to sink hundreds of thousands of pounds a week into his Football team, so I don’t see why he isn’t happy to do the same with his F1 team. It isn’t as if QPR actually win anything or have a hope of winning anything (that matters). If he does pull the plug, you have to think he’d be looking at selling the team on to someone else for them to rebrand, which makes you wonder if that trickles down to the GP2 team and to his car business as well.

    • craig-o (@craig-o) said on 3rd March 2014, 11:29

      Well QPR can’t even buy the championship or even automatic promotion. And their form isn’t that good currently and if they’re not careful they could find themselves 7th, which would be a disaster.

      Back to the F1 team, the car looks awful (in pace and appearance), the only thing going in their favour is that it looks reliable, unlike Marussia. I reckon they’ll regain 10th, and maybe score a point or two early on, but will struggle once the other teams become more reliable.

      • GeeMac (@geemac) said on 3rd March 2014, 12:43

        I was initially a fan of Lotus/Caterham but over the years Fernandes started to wear on me and I’m now firmly in the Marussia camp. At last Marussia seem to have the edge on pace but their reliability isn’t as good, so I fear you are right, if there is a sniff of a point early in the season it may be Caterham who take it.

    • Le Jimster (@lejimster82) said on 3rd March 2014, 17:57

      Caterham have gone conservative on the chassis cooling no doubt, but at the same time they’ve gone aggressive on aero design elsewhere, also the only team to run full pullrod suspension seems like a big change for them. Although the times haven’t been shown, I think they are actually very close to the likes of Torro Rosso with the added bonus of being more reliable thus far.

      While we believe that Merc/Ferrari cars have the edge in performance, it may be that they’ve all gone too aggressive on cooling. We have no idea how they will cope during a full race distance, in hot dirty air.

      I’ve not been so excited for a start of a season since 2009, we really have no idea of who’s where. More than ever we are just guessing.

  2. Ciaran (@ciaran) said on 3rd March 2014, 11:32

    Bizaarre to think Caterham and Marussia have been in F1 for 5 years – I still think of them as “the new teams”! Still, I think this is by far their best year to be gunning for points, with the reliability problems every team is facing, all they need is a fair bit of luck and some solid pace.

  3. Rigi (@rigi) said on 3rd March 2014, 11:42

    i can’t help but think that caterham sort of expected the renault engines to not work properly at the beginning of the season. would caterham really have such a generous rear if they didn’t know it would help cooling the engine?
    i reckon they will wait until the engine won’t have as much trouble as it does right now, they’ll tighten up their rear end and hopefully get in the midfield.

    like keith says, early season reliability might just be the key to sucess in 2014!

  4. AdrianMorse (@adrianmorse) said on 3rd March 2014, 11:47

    They may score a point, but nothing so far has suggested that their general level of competitiveness will improve compared to previous seasons. Fair enough that Fernandes wants results after five years of F1, but realistically he should start looking for a buyer.

    It is depressing, though, that in all this time the “new teams” have not moved any closer to the front of the grid.

  5. Niyoko said on 3rd March 2014, 12:41

    If Caterham’s reliability holds up, they have very strong chance of picking up a 10th place point here or there. So far they have proven to be the most reliable Renault powered team. They are not the fastest, but with the lack of laps they others have done due to technical problems, they look like the ones with the longest legs. What Caterham needs to do it make the most of the early races. I don’t see them being able to our last the other Renault teams for very long.

  6. eternal pessimist said on 3rd March 2014, 13:33

    Fernandes may want Caterham to score points, but I don’t think this year will be that year. The car is simply too slow, even to score points. In order to score points, they must hope that half the field will be wiped out by crashes or mechanical problems, which is highly unlikely, despite the new engines. I feel most sorry for Kobayashi, he waits a year to come back into F1 and he gets a crappy car. Tough luck

    • Le Jimster (@lejimster82) said on 3rd March 2014, 20:57

      How do you *know* it’s “too slow”? Koba never did any performance runs on the final test, but the projected times were around the same level as current midfield teams.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if for the first few weekends we lose half the grid during the race, which means being a slow tortoise could be more advantageous than a fast hare ;).

  7. ltsh (@ltsh) said on 3rd March 2014, 14:29

    I think points will be scored this year by either Marussia or Caterham and think Q2 is a reasonable target for both of them to achieve at least at the start of the season.

  8. Jose Sammut said on 3rd March 2014, 14:44

    The new teams, Marussia and Catheram alike should join forces with other companies who are looking for a gateway to F1 like Haas to expand their budget…. And a little character would also help in finding sponsors. Look at Lotus; everyone likes them because they have a nice, funny personality. Also why did Catheram sign Kobayashi instead of Frijns??? With all respect for him, he never really shone in F1. Look at Marrusia with Bianchi. He really helped to extract the most of the car. Also being a small team with smaller budgets, they should take more risks, especially with the type of game they are in…. They shouldn’t be looking at consistent results as only the best result will count for the championship, and I’m not referring to a reliable car as I think that will be their most realistic way to get points, slipping past the chaos in the opening races.

  9. DaveD (@daved) said on 3rd March 2014, 16:50

    I really believe that either Caterham or Marussia will score a point in the first two races. Not because their pace is up, because they still look rather forlorn in that department. But there will be so much attrition that if one of them can just get a car to the finish they have a shot at points.

  10. DaveD (@daved) said on 3rd March 2014, 16:53

    By the way, does anyone know what the over/under line is for safety cars in Melbourne? It’s got to be at least 3 or 4!

    And I just realized that will have a huge impact on fuel usage. If you spend 20 laps of a race behind a safety car, it’s hard to burn off that 100kg of fuel. We may see some serious racing that last 10 laps or so when everyone realizes they have plenty of fuel to burn off.

  11. One new team for 2016 or 2015 depending on what the FIA choose but certainly the last of caterham in F1 this season.

  12. Lauri (@f1lauri) said on 3rd March 2014, 22:28

    Only thing that points is the nose of Caterham.

  13. Force Maikel (@force-maikel) said on 3rd March 2014, 23:04

    I have heard they have already decided to dump the ‘Ferrari 312T5′ nose and will try to build a Lotus ‘twin tusk’ version for Spain.

    That’s got to hurt, especially if you remember what Tony Fernandes said about it when the car was revealed at Jerez: ‘I’m shocked on how much we spend on that’

    • Le Jimster (@lejimster82) said on 3rd March 2014, 23:17

      Not really, when the CT05 was unveiled, the team said they had several design paths and the finger nose design wasn’t necessarily the final. Remember they’ve only just started using the Toyota wind tunnel, so they will be getting back better aero feedback than they’ve had before. So I expect quite a development race this year, so I hope they can improve things by the end of the season.

  14. I believe that Caterham have a chance to score point for this year or maybe being in top 10 of constructor championship kicking force India, Marussia and Torro Rosso because Caterham are the only team able to make a lot of milleage in Bahrin third test day with renault lack of power unit function……but I sure that in term of an aerodynamic Caterham car liability, there were no problem at all……. its stable…….

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