Caterham remaining cautious over expectations for 2012
Heikki Kovalainen believes Caterham could be within 0.3 seconds of joining Formula One's midfield this year – but is ultimately just looking forward to the season kicking off this weekend to find out.
The Finn and new team-mate Vitaly Petrov will take the CT-01 through its paces in the first free practice sessions of the season in Melbourne on Friday ahead of the curtain-raiser on Sunday.
And while there has been a significant shortage of grand statements and predictions from the Hingham outfit this season, Kovalainen and his colleague are clearly confident this season they can finally mix it properly with the likes of Toro Rosso, Williams and Sauber – and get that first championship point since arriving on the grid in 2010.
'I think scoring points is the great goal but the main aim right now is to join the main pack, the midfield – whether we have the pace to do that or not, I don't know yet,' admitted the 30-year-old.
'Looking at testing I'd say we are reasonably close to a lot of people, but I don't know exactly what they have done and they don't know what we have done. We can only guess.
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'It looks like Williams is the next one for us and if we were running the same fuel loads then we are a couple of tenths behind them. I'm not sure if that's the case or not. We just have to keep working towards that.
'We need to be in the pack rather than a step behind. If we can do that I think it's great. I think we should have all the ingredients to do that but whether our car is quick enough or not I don't think we know yet.'
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After bidding to be involved with the midfield pack ever since they arrived on the scene as Lotus Racing and then Team Lotus, Caterham have been more guarded with their predictions ahead of the new season – even if the aim remains the same.
'I think it's still too early to tell (what our expectations are),' admitted Petrov. 'The team is being pretty cautious about what we want to do this year, so I think the main thing for me is to do the best I can and help them fight a couple of the teams in front.'
Fernandes added: 'Now it is time for us to take our place as a midfield team, and we have everything in place to do just that.
'If we do, and find ourselves racing teams like Williams, Toro Rosso and Sauber I think that will be an incredible achievement, from a starting point of an empty factory in September 2009 to racing teams who have decades on us in terms of establishment and development.
'If we are not quite there at the start of the season it will not be for lack of effort, and we will keep fighting all year to bridge the gap to what will be a very tightly packed group of teams just in front.'