Caterham driver duo cannot wait to take on Japan

Vitaly Petrov steps into his Caterham CT01, for what proved to be a poor Singapore Grand Prix for the Norfolk outfit. Photo: Charles Coates Vitaly Petrov steps into his Caterham CT01, for what proved to be a poor Singapore Grand Prix for the Norfolk outfit. Photo: Charles Coates

Wednesday, October 3, 2012
4:25 PM

Caterham drivers Heikki Kovalainen ad Vitaly Petrov are looking forward to racing in Japan this weekend – where the Hingham-backed outfit will hope they can get back on track.

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EDP F1 correspondent Michael Bailey says…

Caterham will be more than disappointed to lose 10th place in the constructors’ championship to Marussia in Singapore – but it does sum up their second half of the season, which has been their least impressive period since arriving in the sport.

The team even stopped issuing press released – something Tony Fernandes later admitted was because the team wasn’t performing well enough to talk about it.

It means the pressure is on more than ever. Caterham need an impressive weekend – if not a couple – before the end of the season.

Otherwise, they may face a tough winter and a driver search if they cannot convince Heikki Kovalainen to sign on again – the Finn is due to be out of contract at the end of the year.

Marussia nipped in with a 12th place finish at Singapore in the previous round, to steal away the much prized 10th place in the constructors’ championship – where Caterham have finished in their two previous Formula One campaigns.

It means the Norfolk marque, now based in Leafield, has a job on its hands over the remaining six races to retake the place from their fellow 2010 new boys.

But whatever happens, Caterham’s drivers cannot wait to taste Suzuka once again.

“It is one of the races everybody looks forward to and I’m no different,” said Kovalainen, currently ahead of his team-mate in the drivers’ standings.

“It’s a proper track, exactly the sort of circuit you want to drive F1 cars on as it has everything – high speed corners where you can really feel the downforce working, medium speed sections where it’s all about car balance and some of the most passionate fans in the world.”

Petrov added: “Japan’s one of my favourite places to race, in fact it’s one of my favourite countries to visit whether we’re racing or not. At home I eat Japanese food quite often and the fact it has great food and really cool fans makes it a great place to go as an F1 driver.

“The fans really are incredible. The stands are packed throughout the whole weekend, even on Thursdays when we’re not on track, and they’re so polite, almost a bit scared of asking for autographs or photos, but you can tell how much F1 means to them and it’s always cool when they give us presents or things they’ve made for us.

“On track Suzuka is obviously a cool track to race on. The first sector is a good challenge in the car and for the engineers, to make sure we have a well balanced car.”

Meanwhile, Tony Fernandes believes the arrival of Cyril Abiteboul as the Formula One team’s chief executive in the new year is another step forward.

The current deputy managing director of Renault Sport is already splitting his duties between Caterham and Renault before completing his switch to Leafield, where he will work under Caterham Group chief Riad Asmat.

“Cyril’s appointment is more good news for our Formula One team,” said Fernandes. “He will lead our F1 operation and will work closely with Riad, who can now turn his full attention to the continuing growth of the wider Caterham Group.

“Cyril will also strengthen the excellent relationship we have with Renault, particularly as we work towards the introduction of the new engine regulations in 2014 when engines will play an even greater role in overall car performance.”

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