Melbourne retirements but still optimism for Caterham after opener

Caterham left the opening grand prix of the season with the bitter disappointment of two retirements – but hopes over their pace.

Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov were forced out of the action in Melbourne within five laps of each other, just after the halfway point of the first round of the new season in Australia.

Kovalainen also raced without his Kers working, as well as early issues with DRS, as the Caterhams battled for 15th.

But the field was noticeably closer from front to back than last season, and that gives those at Hingham confidence they have made inroads on the midfield over the summer – and can make more during the course of the season.

'Both Vitaly and I had to avoid the problems in turn one at the start and then I lost a bit of time behind Timo Glock, but got past him quickly and then started to show good pace, enough the close the gap to the cars ahead,' said Kovalainen.

' I lost DRS until about lap six, and had to switch off Kers right at the start, so the sort of times we were doing were clearly competitive.

'Both stops went well but then I felt the car starting to pull left under braking so we brought the car in to take a look and it seems like a front left suspension problem was causing the handling imbalance I'd felt for a few laps before we had to retire.

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'I'm sure we can fix both problems for next week and we have shown today what a step forward we've taken, so it's not bad news, it's just one of those days.'

The day then went from bad to worse for Kovalainen, who was handed a five-place grid penalty for Sepang After being adjudged to have overtaken under the safety car just before he dived into the pits.

Petrov added: 'I was having a fantastic race and it's such a shame we had to retire the car. Until that point everything was going exactly to plan.

'The team did a great to job to help me pass Heikki in the first stop, I was catching Bruno Senna and Felipe Massa ahead and the car felt really well balanced.

'We definitely showed the sort of pace that can bring rewards this season, so while it's obviously not how we wanted the first race with my new team to go we can take a lot of positives from this and move on to Malaysia where we know we can put in a strong performance.'

Caterham will need a quick turnaround from their Australian disappointment – the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang takes place in seven days' time.

Caterham technical director Mark Smith said: 'I am very encouraged by our performance in the race and we have a good platform to build on.

'It is clear that we can race with a number of cars in the midfield so we will move on to Malaysia and make sure we have a strong weekend in front of the home fans.'

Jenson Button pipped pole sitter Lewis Hamilton at the first corner to set up his win in Melbourne, with his McLaren Team-mate having to eventually settle for third behind Sebastian Vettel.

Mark Webber picked up fourth – his best finish at his home grand prix – while Force India's Scot Paul di Resta took the final point on offer for 10th after a scintillating last lap of action and incident in what was an entertaining race.

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