Caterham's new team principal Cyril Abiteboul cuts a cool figure during the final weekend of the 2012 season. Photo: Charles Coates

Cyril Abiteboul plans Caterham’s route to a brighter Formula One campaign in 2013 and beyond

Monday, January 14, 2013
12.12 PM

Caterham’s goals have to change according to Cyril Abiteboul – although the team principal admitted growing the team in 2013 may be more of a necessity than upping the performances on the track.

The Frenchman has settled into his role as Tony Fernandes’ replacement at the Hingham-backed outfit, which he started in November and takes on full time from this month having wrapped up his duties with old employers Renault.

After big claims at the start of the season 2012 was ultimately a disappointment, with Vitaly Petrov’s superb drive in the final race salvaging their 10th place in the constructors’ championship – and their status as the pick of the teams that joined in 2010.

New car and engine regulations proposed for 2014 may offer more of a development opportunity to Caterham than the stability of 2013 – which could see the status quo from 2012. But either way, the Caterham chief accepted the team cannot continue existing only to beat the teams it joined alongside three years ago, which in 2013 will only be Marussia following HRT’s almost certain demise from the sport.

“Absolutely we cannot be satisfied with that title any more,” said Abiteboul. “I’d like to be able to say that we raced teams ahead of us and had some more of what we felt in Brazil. However, I think maybe we overstated what was achievable in 2012. For 2013 I’d like to look back and say we continued to develop as a team, seized whatever opportunities came our way and surprised a few people, without compromising the preparation for 2014.

“For small teams like us, 2014 is as much a major risk as it is an interesting opportunity, due to the quality of the technical relationship with Renault. Anyway, we are determined to fight harder than ever to succeed, so I hope 2013 is one to remember for the right reasons.”

Petrov’s result in Brazil meant at least £7m in extra revenue for the Norfolk marque this year – but not just that.

“The money is obviously important, but what finishing 10th also meant to me was that it showed our team what it felt like to be part of the show, and that’s something that has been missing for most of the 2012 season,” he said. “At the European GP in Valencia we were as close as we’ve ever been to truly racing one of the teams ahead, but since then we have been almost racing on our own.

“That means the boys in the garage and everyone back at the factory has been missing the adrenaline rush of real competition, missing the emotional highs of success.

“The power those emotions have to inspire is undeniable. Our whole team had that feeling for every lap of the Brazilian race, and it was very special to see what it meant to everyone when Vitaly (Petrov) brought his car home in 11th. This positive energy will be immensely useful for the work we have ahead of us over the winter.”

Reshaping the team and devising short and long-term goals has been at the forefront of the new team principal’s mind since he stepped in at Leafield. That includes the driver line-up, with arguably 2012’s top rookie Charles Pic making the switch from Marussia for this year.

“Charles is an extremely exciting prospect,” said Abiteboul. “In his first year in F1 he was quick immediately and his record against Timo (Glock) over the year was impressive. On circuits he’d already raced he was particularly strong and that tells us in 2013 he’ll be quicker still with a year under his belt.”

On Pic’s possible team-mate, he added: “There are different options. One is someone who he can learn from…Another, more radical, is to accept the fact that 2013 is a transition year we use to continue building the team before a period of greater stability in 2014, when a lot of other things in the package will change.

“Both types are out there, and we are close to making a decision.”