Caterham are celebrating an excellent qualifying session today in Bahrain after Heikki Kovalainen beat Michael Schumacher to get into Q2.
The Finn used the Pirelli soft tyre to good effect on an evolving track to better the seven-time world champion’s time by 0.013 seconds in the dying seconds of Q1.
“That was an excellent qualifying session for our team,” said Kovalainen, who will start tomorrow’s Bahrain Grand Prix from sixteenth place. “It’s a real bonus for us getting into Q2 but we’d already seen this morning that we were close to a few cars and we thought that with the conditions today, being hot and pretty windy, we might be able to use the option tyres to get us into Q2, and it worked out.
“We’ve also saved a set of tyres for tomorrow as we were pretty sure we wouldn’t be able to get too much higher, and with the degradation rates we’ve seen yesterday and today it’s clear tyre management is going to play a big role tomorrow.
“Overall, I’m delighted for the team. We’ve worked really hard to put ourselves in a position where we can fight and today we showed that we are close enough to record results like we did today.
“We made progress over the winter, and even though we haven’t really shown it yet this season, today’s the sort of result we knew we could put in, so it’s a great day, for everyone in Caterham F1 Team back at the factory and here on track.”
Team-mate Vitaly Petrov said that he was ‘reasonably happy’ after qualifying in P20 today, and is optomistic of moving forward tomorrow in the race.
“I’m reasonably pleased with how today went… I was very close to my team mate and the car felt good, but when we switched to the options the car just didn’t feel right,” said the Russian. “It wasn’t so much a balance issue, it was more about how the car felt under braking and I think that’s what cost me the time on the soft tyres.
“Despite that I think we look like we’re getting towards where we should be. We’re much closer to the cars ahead than we were in China and having already seen how we can fight with some of the midfield cars in the races I think tomorrow could be a good day for us.
“It’s definitely going to be interesting. There will be a lot of stops and it’ll come down to who uses their tyres best.”
Caterham technical director Mark Smith expressed how pleased the team were with the result today, and is also positive about how the race will pan out tomorrow.
“We are all delighted with today’s result,” he said. “This morning we had a very good FP3 and the work we have done overnight has paid off with Heikki’s result today. Everything on his car worked as we had planned and this is a clear sign that the whole team is making progress.
“Vitaly had a strong run on the first set of medium tyres but he just was not able to get the most out of the soft tyres on his second run, but he has already shown how strong he is on Sundays so we have good reason to be positive about his prospects here as well.
“We know we have a good package for the race tomorrow, so we’ll look forward to what will definitely be an exciting Grand Prix and aim to maintain the sort of pace we have already shown in the first three races this season.”