Tony Fernandes believes the steps Caterham have taken since entering Formula 1 towards becoming a competitive operation are now starting to bear fruit after Heikki Kovalainen’s eye-catching drive in Monaco.
The Norfolk-based outfit remains without a point in its 44 grands prix and Q2 appearances remain very much the exception rather than the rule, but the team’s Malaysian owner and team principal Fernandes is taking great heart from its performance on the streets of Monte Carlo. Although greatly helped by the circuit’s narrow confines in being able to keep the much faster McLaren of Jenson Button at bay, Kovalainen nonetheless took advantage of a strong first lap to run on the fringes of the top 10 for the majority of the race with only a late collision with a by then clearly frustrated Button denying the team a 12th-place finish which would have equalled its best ever result. Kovalainen did though still come home 13th following an unscheduled late pit stop for repairs.
Fernandes said: “I am still on a high after the race in Monaco. Moving back into tenth place [in the constructors’ championship] is important but there are 14 more races to come this season and we are taking nothing for granted. However, Heikki’s 13th place and the battling performance he and the whole team put in is another sign that all the hard work we have put in over the last two and a half years is starting to pay off.”
Caterham has targeted scoring its first F1 point this season and continues to build up its capabilities and expertise in pursuit of that goal, with the highly respected former McLaren and Ferrari aerodynamicist John Iley only recently starting work at the team. Although Fernandes acknowledges that Monaco’s layout leant itself to something of a giant-killing result last weekend, he believes this nonetheless doesn’t take away from the clear steady progress Caterham is making – adding that he is particularly hopeful over the CT01 upgrade planned for Silverstone in July.
“I am very realistic about what we have achieved so far, and I know that Monaco is a unique circuit that gave us the sort of opportunity we grabbed last Sunday, but I also know that as we continue through this season we keep making small but significant steps forward,” Fernandes said. “During the Monaco race I had some very good news from the factory about a new update we have planned for Silverstone and to see that come in while we were having our best race of the season was another sign that we are doing this in the right way.”
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