Caterham boss Tony Fernandes has said that his team’s failure over the last four years, particularly 2013 where the team finished last out of 11 teams, has made his team stronger.
Announcing his driver line up of Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson at a launch event in the team’s Leafield HQ this morning, Fernandes said,
“It’s a critical season. Most people have written us off. From failure you draw some strength.
“Frankly we have to try to do something different. We haven’t performed as a team since I started this team and we have taken something of a radical approach.
“It is crucial this year that we fight for points, for my motivation. It’s no fun going around the world and coming last; nor for anyone in this team.
“We’ve done extremely well on the business side, Caterham cars and so on. We don’t have to be world champions to sell cars, but we want to do better.
“F1 is a damn difficult sport: I underestimated it. We made some mistakes, we tried to jump too fast and if we’d been more conservative we’d have been fighting in the midfield.”
Speaking of the opportunity offered by the radical rule changes on the technical side, Fernandes said, “It’s an advantage for us at the beginning, then after that obviously the teams with more finance will do more.’
On the drivers, Fernandes said that his team has taken decisions with a commercial side to them, taking note of the nationality of the drivers and their marketability, but he had turned down pay drivers with big budgets in a shift of emphasis for the team.
“We could have got two big pay drivers but we have moved away from that,” he said. “Kamui is a great driver and its good to have an Asian driver in F1.
“We have taken a “total F1″ view.”
While Ericsson does bring a budget, which has clearly led to his opportunity, the inclusion of the highly rated Robin Frijns is exciting for the team and Fernandes said that there was a lot of discussion on whether to throw him in as a race driver,
“Robin is the most exciting young driver and we hope that we have a long relationship,” he said. “There was a lot of debate about bringing him in straight away, like a McLaren has done (with Kevin Magnussen) but we erred on the side of caution.”
Caterham has made a significant investment in his HQ and resources and announced today that it will soon begin testing in the Toyota wind tunnel in Cologne, which will allow them to work at 60% scale; something the leading teams have been doing for a few years. McLaren and Ferrari used the Toyota tunnel last year due to problems with their own 60% scale tunnels.
This will allow Caterham to work in finer detail on aerodynamics and given that the power unit from Renault is the same as the one used by leading teams like Red Bull and Lotus and will thus be what it is, the team hopes its greater aerodynamic capability will allow it to hoist itself up the grid.
It is a more expensive thing to do, but the tyre models are more representative. You get closer to reality with 60% than with 50%.
Technical director Mark Smith said that Toyota is a “world class facility” and with the cut of wind tunnel hours in the Sporting Regulations to 30 hours per week, this made the decision make sense for Caterham.