Caterham may have got the season in which it is aiming to score its first Formula 1 points underway with a disappointing double DNF, and a five-place grid penalty for its lead driver at the next race, but the team has taken comfort from evidence which it believes suggests it can take on Formula 1’s midfield this year.
Although the Malaysian-owned squad found themselves in familiar positions below the Q1 cut line in qualifying at Albert Park, technical director Mark Smith took heart from the race pace both Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov were able to display prior to dropping out with front track rod and steering problems respectively.
“Today we showed the sort of pace that we knew this car was capable of in pre-season testing,” Smith said. “I am very encouraged by our performance in the race and we have a good platform to build on. It is clear that we can race with a number of cars in the midfield so we will move on to Malaysia and make sure we have a strong weekend in front of the home fans.”
Petrov was running 14th when he had to pull up on the side of the pit straight, prompting the late safety car, and reckons that up until then the CT01 served notice that it can “bring rewards” for the team over the next 19 races.
“I was catching Senna and Massa ahead and the car felt really well balanced,” he said. “I was managing the tyres well and we definitely showed the sort of pace that can bring rewards this season, so while it’s obviously not how we wanted the first race with my new team to go we can take a lot of positives from this and move on to Malaysia where we know we can put in a strong performance.”
Kovalainen had to run without the use of KERS from the start of the race, and lost the use of his DRS rear wing for the opening six laps, and Caterham Group chief Riad Asmat added: “We have work to do to make sure we cure the problems we encountered today, but we will do just that and come back even more strong in Sepang.”