Mike Gascoyne and Tony Fernandes maintained the theme of understated optimism as Caterham started to focus on Formula One’s 2012 curtain-raiser in Melbourne.

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With the third and final pre-season test coming to an end in Barcelona on Sunday, attention turns to the opening grand prix of the season – in Australia on March 18.

And generally showing decent pace and better early reliability than last winter, Hingham-backed Caterham will hope their CT01 can deliver a first championship point since the team was created little more than two years ago.

“We can be pleased that in the two key areas of reliability and performance we have been able to achieve what we set out to,” said Norwich-born technical chief Mike Gascoyne.

“The car has run pretty much faultlessly all week and we are starting to unlock the performance that we know this car can deliver.

“It looks like the midfield teams will be very tightly packed this year, and while we know the times from the tests do not tell the whole story, it does look like we have made a step from last year.

“So the target for Australia will be to maintain the strong reliability we have shown here, build on the performance both drivers have demonstrated and aim to be racing one or two of the teams who were just out reach at the end of 2011.”

Gascoyne’s mood was shared by team principal Tony Fernandes, in Spain for the final day of the second Barcelona test and looking forward to seeing what Vitaly Petrov and Heikki Kovalainen can do this year.

“For me that is the best test our team has ever had,” said Fernandes. “Both Vitaly and Heikki have performed very well behind the wheel and with both drivers putting in good times and very decent mileage, we leave here in as good a shape as we could have hoped for.

“There is still a lot of work to be done and we will not stop pushing because we know where we are likely to be when we get to Melbourne, and to be able to fight with the teams ahead will require even more hard work from everybody.

“But step by step we keep edging ever closer to them and the performance here, and in Jerez, shows we are on the right path.”

Caterham will be eyeing a battle with Toro Rosso, Williams and Sauber this season – something they flirted with at times last year. Whether it is a possibility will become clearer as early as qualifying in Melbourne a week on Saturday.

Gascoyne added: “We have had a very good final week of testing. Both drivers have made the sort of progress we targeted, particularly Vitaly who had his proper race seat on Sunday and is starting to find a balance he can really use.

“We still have some work to do to help him optimise the braking system, but that is about fine tuning his set-up and I am sure we can have that ready for him in Melbourne.”

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