Mark Smith marks out hopes for Caterham’s Formula One progress
A first championship point remains the 2012 goal for Hingham’s Caterham – both at Monaco this weekend and beyond.
The 2010 new boys have yet to realise their long-term goal of joining Formula One’s midfield in their short existence, an aim that would make point-scoring a real possibility.
The added competitiveness of the F1 field has made Caterham’s task even harder, with the likes of Sauber, Williams and Lotus pushing for race wins – by the end of last season, they were the teams the Hingham marque was aiming to catch.
However, Caterham technical director Mark Smith is confident that first point will arrive sooner rather than later.
“We are absolutely targeting points this year,” said Smith. “Even if it’s only one point, that is our target – we need to finish this season with a point or two. Everything that we do is geared towards that.
“One of the things that we’ve instigated and that has now happened is that John Iley joined us from McLaren. I’ve worked with John at two teams before; we know each other fairly well. He’s obviously got experience of front-running teams – very recent experience – and it’s those kinds of recruitments that actually allow you to step beyond the gradient that you’re on.
“He’s already had a good look around the car. He will be giving his input to the developments that we’re embarking on as of now.
“I think it will be fairly slow until the August shutdown, but I genuinely believe that our gradient will take off a little bit, and that we will have a much stronger car, certainly by the last third of the season. We will be in a strong position, and I hope that we will pick up the points.”
Investment in Caterham’s aerodynamic development is a big target for Smith, something set to be helped by the team’s switch from Hingham to Leafield in the summer – close to the Williams wind tunnel currently used by the team. In the end Caterham’s original plans to build their own wind tunnel facility at Hingham proved too costly.
So with a few more new recruits and the switch west, Smith believes the well-funded – if still small – Norfolk-backed outfit will continue to progress to where they want to be.
“We genuinely believe that we will come through,” added Smith. “We are where we are at the moment, but I don’t think you find that people here become too depressed by it. I think there’s a belief that we will make progress.
“I do have high hopes. My expectations are the same as anyone’s – to end the season in a stronger position than we started in, and for that to carry through into 2013.
“We need to be not in this gap between the other two new teams and the midfield, we need to be in the back end of that midfield from the beginning of next season so that we can start to progress through it.”
Both Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov will hope to make an impact this weekend at Monaco – while a 14th finish would see the Hingham marque return to 10th in the constructors’ championship, a place currently occupied by Marussia.