Heikki Kovalainen: Silverstone was far from a write-off for Caterham
Heikki Kovalainen believes Silverstone was far from a write-off for Caterham, despite another disappointing weekend in front of their home fans.
The Hingham outfit took the short trip west full of high hopes they could build on a strong outing in Valencia and with new upgrades, possibly push on even closer to their midfield target.
But after a double failure at the circuit last year, Caterham had the ignominy of seeing Vitaly Petrov’s Renault engine blow up on the way to the British Grand Prix grid – while Kovalainen spent the race almost exclusively in his own company down the field.
A minor clash with a Toro Rosso heading into Brooklands for the first time was a major factor in the Finn’s surprising lack of pace. And while Formula One’s next get-together at Hockenheim in a fortnight’s time will prove one way or another the steps Caterham have made, Kovalainen was far from down in the dumps as the team packed up around him in their Silverstone garage.
“The weekend is not a write off – we’ve been able to gather some data and analysis of our new package, which is good because it means the team can go back and make improvements for the next race,” Kovalainen told the EDP.
“So it’s not a write off and actually in terms of the race team performance, I’m happy. We did very good pit stops today and overall the performance of the team was good.”
Indeed, Caterham’s timed stops for Kovalainen put them eighth quickest in the F1 paddock.
“We kept to the areas we can influence at the moment and we kept them tidy, and it’s just the performance we need to work on. We just need to understand things better, stick together as a team and worked hard.
While Kovalainen’s race was solitary, he did at least get to take part. His Russian team-mate suffered all of the build-up with none of the release, instead left to help wheel his car back to his mechanics and watch the rest of the race as a frustrated spectator.
“Absolutely; I was really sorry to see that and it was terrible for him – but there was nothing he could do and it was actually an engine failure, which we very rarely get,” said Kovalainen.
“We haven’t had any major issues with the engine – I don’t remember the last time my engine has blown up. It’s such a rare occurrence. But it can happen sometimes and it’s a shame because I think he would have been able to do a good race as well.
“Certainly I was lonely out there and I would have preferred at least to have fought with him and had some kind of race with someone like him.”
New front and rear wings, as when as the performance-sensitive exhaust area were all upgraded by the Hingham factory on the CT01 for the race at Silverstone – although severely wet conditions during free practice and qualifying were far from ideal to see what extra benefits could be extracted from them.
The Finn added: “It was a lonely race for me. I couldn’t really race anyone. We didn’t have the legs to challenge in front of us and there was nothing threatening behind us.
“So we have work to do. I felt the car was a little bit out of balance in the race. We have made improvements at the front of the car but the front of the car wasn’t working as well as it could have done and I think we still need to rebalance and get more out of this package. We can be confident it is a step forward, but an established circuit highlights the weaknesses in the car and the aerodynamics area we still need to work on.”
The races at Hockenheim and then in Hungary seven days later bring about Formula One’s summer break – but Caterham will be using the time to make their long promised move from Hingham to the old Arrows factory at Leafield, near Silverstone.
Parts of Caterham will remain in Norfolk – as well as the team’s embryonic history – but the departure from the county will be for the good of the team off and on the track, as far as Kovalainen is concerned.
“The key for the team at this point of it’s development is really to give our people better tools and better facilities, to show what they can do,” he said.
“That’s a huge step forward for our team. The facility we are moving to is great. It’s really big and we can get all the departments together into a better environment.
“It’s close to the Williams wind tunnel we use as well so that will hopefully also speed up the main area, which is the development of the aerodynamic performance of the car.”