F1 2014 Preview: Caterham – All new lineup, last chance to perform

Caterham F1 CEO Tony Fernandes was openly bitter about losing 10th in the Constructors’ Championship last year and has declared that this would be the team’s “final chance” to deliver. Should the team fail to score its first points after 5 years of competing, Fernandes vows to fold the operation.

In an effort to boost their odds, both of last year’s drivers, Charles Pic and rookie Giedo Van Der Garde, were shown the door. In their place Caterham has signed former Sauber F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi and Swedish rookie Marcus Ericsson to pilot the CT05.

The Car

Caterham's 2014 entry, the CT05, boasts a radical design capable of making children weep in terror as it goes by.

Caterham’s 2014 entry, the CT05, boasts a radical design capable of making children weep in terror as it goes by.

There are looks that only a mother could love, and then there is the CT05 which is so ugly that a mother would need to be blind to love it. Its bizarre front end is headed by a long gentleman’s sausage leading back to a strange wedge and chunky body. Making it look so outlandish would serve no purpose unless it was with the intent of increasing aerodynamic properties. With a clear channel for air to rush back towards its unusual bodywork, the odd front end seems geared to redirect air to the floor (reclaiming downforce) and the side pods (improved cooling).

After testing concluded, Kamui Kobayashi made comments that raised questionability about the performance of the radical design. “We are not in race conditions here, but if we were in race conditions I think I should bring a GP2 car,” Kobayashi told reporters.

However, he was positive about the car’s reliability, and rightfully so. With its larger air intakes providing better cooling and better sorted electronics, the CT05 was the most reliable Renault-powered car in every preseason test. No team ran the preseason issue-free, so a solid runner could grant the team their first points.

Kamui Kobayashi – One shot at glory

kamui kobayashi

Kobayashi’s return was made possible with millions of Euros donated by fans, and came at the cost of his relationship with Ferrari.

When Kobayashi was released from Sauber in 2012, it was on the back of being eclipsed by his less experienced teammate Sergio Perez, several collisions and a need for pay drivers at the Swiss team. With little financial backing to help him secure a drive, Kobayashi moved to the World Endurance Series for 2013 where he drove for Ferrari (and had some exhilarating races against fellow F1 refugee Bruno Senna).

During 2013, Kobayashi made it very clear that he wanted to return to Formula 1 in 2014. Raising an alleged 8 million Euros from his fans, he was able to secure a seat at Caterham. His announcement was delayed by Caterham’s desire to re-sign Heikki Kovalainen. That was changed when Kovalainen displayed two dismal performances at Lotus when he filled in for Kimi Raikkonen at the end of 2013.

With usually consistent results at Sauber and a podium to his name, the aggressive Japanese driver is a decent pick for a team that needs something special. For Kobayashi, however, the move may have been suicide. Leaving the Ferrari WEC team burned bridges with motorsport’s biggest name. A weak season could end his F1 career for good, and he no longer has a Ferrari connection to help him find new pastures in such an event. His frustration with CT05 may sound snobbish, but understandable given his career and kindness of his fans is on the line.

Marcus Ericsson – Who now?

Spending four years in the midfield of a junior category makes Sweden's first driver in 23 years a questionable prospect.

Spending four years in the midfield of a junior category makes Sweden’s first driver in 23 years a questionable prospect.

Sweden’s first F1 entry in 23 years, Marcus Ericsson’s announcement came as something of a shock to many Formula 1 fans. With a championship in Formula BMW (2008) and Formula 3 Japan (2009), he was signed to race in GP2 with high expectations. Spending a rather lengthy four years, Ericsson rarely was worth noticing. It wasn’t until the final half of 2013 that he reminded the grid he existed, raising from 20th in the championship to 6th. An impressive feat, though not one that a top-notch driver would ever need to perform.

Few wins, mediocre results and a slow rate of growth characterized his GP2 career, leaving Ericsson’s worthiness of an F1 drive in doubt. Strong sponsorship makes the “pay driver” label easier to apply. Time alone will tell whether Caterham found a driver on the cusp of a breakthrough or just hired him to pay the electric bills.

Preseason Figures
Jerez Total Laps:
76 Laps (7th*)
Kobayashi: 54 Laps
Ericsson: 12 Laps
Robin Frijns (Test Driver): 10 Laps
Best times
Kobayashi: 1’43.493 (18th quickest)
Ericsson: 1’37.975 (16th quickest)

Bahrain Figures (Test 1 &2 Combined)
Total laps: 550 Laps (7th)
Kobayashi: 208 Laps
Ericsson: 274 Laps
Robin Frijns (Test Driver): 68 Laps
Best Times
Kobayashi: 1’38.391 (20th)
Ericsson: 1’38.093 (19th)

*Lotus was not present at the Jerez test

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