Caterham F1 Team Principal Cyril Abiteboul says that during a season of changeable fortunes, his outfit are already ahead of their 2014 targets and are setting their sites on an aggressive approach to catch the midfield.
Speaking as part of Caterham’s Half-Term Report, the Frenchman discussed their season thus far and how their plans for the coming years are an exciting prospect.
He believes that changes in both the aerodynamic and engine specifications taking place next year has encouraged a strong focus on taking an advantage in to the new-era of Formula One.
“In parallel with the improvements we’re making to the facilities, we must continue to invest in people, raising the experience level and making sure we are future proofed, particularly with new aero and engine regulations just around the corner,” said Abiteboul.
“We are doing this so we can take advantage of the opportunities 2014 will bring and we’re already above our initial targets for next year, so much so we’re looking at reviewing them for more aggressive ones! The car has been in the tunnel for a while now, and we’re seeing good numbers, all of which is being achieved while we keep progressing this year, hopefully showing without a doubt that we are on the right path to reduce the gap to the midfield.”
Tenth place in the Constructors’ Championship has been the minimum requirement for Caterham and their closest rivals, Marussia, since joining the Formula One grid in 2010. Although they are now under different ownership, their competition has created an interesting battle further down the field and the pressure between the two to score the first Championship point is aligned with the financial benefit to ending the season higher up the order.
In fact, Bernie Ecclestone’s plans to only distribute prize money to the top ten teams – therefore having one team that receives no prize-winnings – is a huge incentive to maintain their progress.
The opening races of this year’s season saw Caterham drop away from their Banbury-based competitors, often unable to out-qualify Marussia lead driver Jules Bianchi.
However, the season has turned in their favour in recent races and the team feel that their ambition to battle amongst the mid-field runners is becoming closer.
“It’s been an interesting first half of season for the team and for me personally. This is another great F1 season, with battles pretty much everywhere. As far as we’re concerned, we’ve been fighting with Marussia who have done a great job over the last year. We started the season clearly behind them, but over the last three races a comfortable gap has appeared between us and them, which shows our rate of development. That’s also helped us on a couple of occasions to race a Williams or a Sauber and that shows where we’re setting our targets,” added Abiteboul.
During last year’s Summer break Caterham relocated their company as a whole, from Norfolk to Leafield in Oxfordshire. The move to “Motorsport Valley” was aimed at working with increased efficiency throughout their company, from Caterham Composites to the F1 team itself.
This form of operation is similar in nature to how McLaren make use of their Technology Centre.
“Since moving to Leafield last August, and especially since the start of 2013, the focus was on making sure the factory was up and running and putting ourselves in control of our manufacturing process, reducing lead times and increasing economic efficiency, with the right level of integration.
“Although some refinements are always possible, this will be fully completed right after the summer shutdown. During the second part of the year, we will push to be able to develop more and more accurately in the virtualised environment, the route that our industry is heading towards,”