Vitaly Petrov a happy man after sealing his first finish for Caterham
Caterham’s hopes of picking up something special from an unpredictable Malaysian Grand Prix did not quite pay off on Sunday afternoon.
The Hingham marque produced a similar qualifying effort to those of last season at one of its home races, and come the rain-affected race around Sepang ultimately Caterham had to settle for the fringes of the midfield battle once again.
However, the team did secure its first two-car finish of the season after the double retirement in Australia, with Vitaly Petrov 16th and Heikki Kovalainen two places behind.
The Finn’s efforts were impressive given he started from the back of the grid thanks to a five-place penalty after Melbourne and lost his front nose during Sunday’s race.
But Petrov was the happier of the two drivers thanks to his first finish for the team since replacing Jarno Trulli in the winter.
“I am really happy with the performance today,” said the Russian. “We didn’t show the car’s true potential in qualifying, but today I was able to put in similar lap times to the cars ahead and didn’t make any mistakes in the tricky conditions.
“The car felt good all afternoon and the team worked really well to help me get the most out of it, both on the pit wall and with the stops, so I’m very pleased I’ve been able to record my first race finish for the team and to start to show what we can do in races. This gives us a good base to work from.”
After running higher up the field, Petrov was eventually caught by the likes of Nico Rosberg and Felipe Massa – but still enjoyed a productive afternoon.
However, Caterham remain behind Marussia in the constructors’ championship thanks to their rivals’ 14th and 15th finishes in Australia.
Timo Glock was the man in a Marussia to split the Caterham team-mates in Malaysia – and after Kovalainen had an easy run of things against the other side of his garage in 2011, it already looks to be a closer affair this season.
“That was one of those races when we could have had a really good result, but a bit of bad luck and a car I didn’t really have a great balance on meant I’m just pleased to have got it home,” bemoaned Kovalainen. “I made a small mistake on the inters and had to come in for a new nose, and that dropped me back a few places which basically ended my race.
“Despite that, it’s good that we got both cars home and we also showed again that we have a car that can race on Sundays. Now we need to focus on getting more out of it in qualifying and pushing on at the next race in China.”
Caterham technical director Mark Smith added: “From the technical perspective that was an incredibly busy race. With the constantly changing conditions we had to make a number of calls to give us a chance to fight and while that paid off for Vitaly, for Heikki it was a much tougher afternoon.
“But it is good to see how hard Vitaly was able to push, and to see the lap times he was putting in on the inters.”