Valencia pace backs up early Caterham optimism

Caterham appeared to back their optimism with decent pace during free practice in Valencia on Friday.

The Hingham outfit saw Vitaly Petrov quicker than both Toro Rossos and within 1.7 seconds of FP2 pace-setter Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull.

The Norfolk marque has been hoping updates planned for this weekend's European Grand Prix and in a fortnight's time at Silverstone will bring them significantly closer to the midfield pack.

And judging by their efforts in Spain, the signs are encouraging.

'The difference this year for us is that we expect to be much closer to the cars ahead than we were last year, giving us a chance perhaps to put one of our cars into Q2 and giving the drivers a real chance to race on Sunday,' said Caterham technical chief Mark Smith.

'We have a couple of quite significant updates coming in Valencia and Silverstone – we will take a look at a number of new aerodynamic elements in Valencia as well as some minor modifications to the floor, and even though we will not know exactly what they will give us until we get out on track, we are cautiously optimistic they will help us keep edging ever closer to the midfield.'

As always, Caterham's optimism was epitomised by team principal Tony Fernandes.

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'These are very exciting times,' said the Malaysian. 'At the next two races we will see the fruits of the hard work being done by everyone at the factory (in Hingham) with a number of important upgrades on the cars.

'While we are honest enough with ourselves to know that these upgrades alone will not be enough to force our way into the midfield pack, we do know it is a statement of our intent to join the group just ahead that we are updating the car at the same rate or even more quickly than our rivals.

'We have the people and resources in place to achieve our goal of scoring a point this year, and we are edging ever closer to a group of cars that is now tantalisingly close.'

Heikki Kovalainen's superb Saturday effort in Bahrain remains the only time Caterham have ventured beyond Q1 this season.