The two Caterham drivers had differing emotions after the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai today: Vitaly Petrov was celebrating a decent driver to eighteenth place whilst Heikki Kovalainen was disappointed after finishing twenty-third and last of the race finishers.
“I am really pleased with my performance today,” said Petrov. “I think we got as much out of the car as we could and the fact we were on the same lap as the leaders right up until the final lap is a very positive sign. We brought some updates here and they’ve worked out pretty well – the key for us is to keep pushing, keep bringing new parts to the car and make sure we maintain the momentum we are building up.”
Kovalainen was running well until his second pit stop, when it all started to go wrong. The Finn is hoping to bounce back in Bahrain.
“I had a good start, getting up to 16th off the line and then was running pretty well for the first stint on the options,” said Kovalainen, explaining the story of his race. “We pitted on lap 13 and went to the primes which held up well until lap 30 but then as soon as we made the second stop I could feel an issue with the right rear so we had to stop again immediately which was basically the end of my race.
“This hasn’t been our strongest weekend but with the next race back-to-back with China we can look to bounce back straight away, so we’ll regroup in Bahrain and look to put in a stronger weekend there.”
Although today’s result for Caterham might not look too brilliant on paper, technical director Mark Smith was able to draw plenty of positives from the weekend. “Today’s race was pretty tough, but I am pleased with the way both drivers kept pushing and I think we have learnt some very useful lessons here in China,” he said.
“We opted to start both cars on the soft tyres and our pace in the early laps was good. Both drivers switched to the medium compounds for their second stops and we were easily pulling away from the cars behind but then when Heikki stopped on lap 30 he felt a problem with the rear of the car as soon as he pulled out of the pitlane so had to do a very slow lap and come back in.
“Vitaly had a problem free afternoon and was putting in good lap times, staying on the lead lap until almost the final lap and with every race he is growing more and more confident in the car and with the team.
“Now we have another week of hard work ahead of us so we will do our best to make the most of the different conditions we will face in Bahrain and aim to get back to where we know we should be.”
Team Principal Tony Fernandes, as always, was able to be extremely upbeat about the race. “The whole team did very well today and for me that was one of our most competitive races since we joined Formula 1,” he said. “There were no safety cars and yet we were incredibly close to finishing on the same lap as the leader. Our race pace was good on both cars – unfortunately we let Heikki down during his second pitstop but apart from that it was another good day in the growth of this team.
“We have also taken another step forward in the direction of the overall business, with Mark Smith assuming his position on the pitwall today and Mike’s role as our Group Chief Technical Officer giving us a clear vision on where we are taking both the F1 team and our roadcar and technical operations.
“We also have John Iley starting with us in the next couple of weeks to boost our capabilities back at the factory, and the wind tunnel operations will be going 24/7 in the next couple of months.
“With all of this I feel very optimistic about the future and leave China knowing we are going in the right direction.”