Motorsports Blog

14 March 2013

Formula One 2013 team report: Caterham

We analyse Caterham's preparations for the upcoming season

TopGear.com
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Team: Caterham Renault (no points, tenth in 2012 constructor’s championship)

2012 Drivers: Heikki Kovalainen (no points, 22nd in 2012 driver’s championship, now back home wondering what a man has to do), Vitaly Petrov (no points, 19th in championship, also at home, only with an eye on which of 2013’s pay driver’s backers aren’t paying up)

2013 Drivers: Charles Pic (Car Number 20) and Giedo van der Garde (21)

New Car: Well, that’s a moot point. It has a new name, the CT03, but it may in fact be last year’s car, the CT01, with the same monocoque but (slightly) different bodywork. This is a big deal; other teams have certainly opted to develop a similar concept to last year’s car, but it’s a very different thing to develop last year’s actual car. Why are Caterham doing this? Well for one thing, they have moved into a new HQ this winter. Big deal. More significant it seems, Caterham is already concentrating on next year’s V6 Turbo car, hoping that throwing away this season will give it an advantage next year.

What Caterham says about its 2012 season: “Did we tell you we’re building a new road car with Renault?”

What we say about 2012: Caterham always seems to be talking up tomorrow; the something big, the new people, new engines, new HQ that will elevate it out of the Q1 gang and move it in to the midfield. But it never seems to happen. Indeed it was only late in the Brazilian GP, when Petrov passed Charles Pic in the Marussia, that the team secured 10th place in the constructors’ championship and something like £12 million. (Ironically Pic, who had already announced he was changing ships, will benefit from that)

Without that, Caterham, who have more resource than Marussia and the benefit of a linear car development over its three seasons in F1, would have lost out to their Q3 rivals. And now, even with the extra cash, it’s opted for two pay drivers over retaining Kovalainen who, while he may no longer be a superstar, is a winning ex-McLaren driver.

Pic showed he had talent, out-qualifying Timo Glock last year and van der Garde is a GP2 winner in last year’s super-competitive championship. But it’s still two pay drivers in last year’s car. But credit to Caterham for being honest about this season. Let’s just hope when 2014 arrives, it will finally deliver on all those promises.

So who’s the new boy? One of four of the top six in last year’s GP2 series to land an F1 drive (Max Chilton at Marussia, Esteban Guitéirrez at Sauber, and winner Davide Valsecchi in the Friday seat at Lotus), Belgian van de Garde is the eldest of the new intake at the grand old age of 27. He’s been around a bit — in German F3, he was racing alongside Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel.

Still, he has at least spent a year doing the Friday job for Caterham so he has experience that might possibly outweigh his only occasionally sparkling CV when it comes to actually competing in F1. That said, he wasn’t even necessarily Caterham’s first choice.

What Caterham has to do to impress us this year: Now they’ve told us that they’re planning to phone it in this year, I guess any green car not on the back row of the grid will be an achievement.

If you pay any attention to testing… Pic got his CTO3 ahead of Bianchi in the Marussia by the end of the final, four day Barcelona test. Van der Garde meanwhile posted the slowest time of the test, just behind Chilton’s Marussia.

Who are Caterham really racing this year? The ghosts of HRT.

Tags: f1, formula one, caterham

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