April 13th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Caterham's underwhelming start to 2013 continued today in China, with both drivers qualifying on the back row of the grid for the second time in three races this season.
For the last three years, Caterham has been the strongest of F1's "new" teams, with Marussia following ahead of now-disbanded HRT. But this season the order seems to have changed, with Marussia showing a clear advantage over Caterham, who are apparently unable to respond. For Caterham's lead driver, Charles Pic, his new team's lack of performance must be particularly galling given that he left Marussia at the end of 2012 to take what seemed to be a step forward in his career. It now looks like it may be a step back.
Caterham are reputed to have a larger budget than Marussia, which will be helped by the prize money they received from finishing 10th in the 2012 Constructors' Championship. They will be looking to use those resources to move forward as quickly as possible.
For tomorrow's race, however, there is nothing the team can do but make the most of its current equipment. Pic and Van der Garde will be looking to make strong starts, as that will be their best chance to establish an advantage over the Marussias in the race. From then on, it will be all about tyre management in the pursuit of reasonable results.
This is what the drivers had to say after Saturday's practice and qualifying:
Charles Pic: “We’ve had quite a few issues all weekend and they’ve hurt our ability to get the most out of the car here, particularly with the tyres. We tried a couple of different setup options in FP3 and the car balance felt better this morning than it had yesterday but between FP3 and qualifying the tyre behaviour changed again and we really couldn’t get them to work. In qualifying we did both runs on the soft tyres but I had traffic on my first run which meant I didn’t have a clean lap. On the second run I improved my time but I still had oversteer on the exits of most of the corners and more traffic in both sectors one and two which basically ruined that lap. Even with the package we have now we know there’s more performance in the car so days like today are frustrating, but we’ll just have to work harder, improve where we can and focus on putting in a good performance tomorrow.”
Giedo van der Garde: “After two productive sessions yesterday I just couldn’t get the same feeling from the car in FP3 and that carried over into qualifying. Like Charles, I’ve had quite a few small problems in each session and together they’ve held us back quite a bit. We’re struggling to understand the tyre behaviour here and when the track temps went up today it was like having to start again with our understanding of how to get them working. My final position in quali is obviously disappointing, particularly as I made a mistake in turn two on my second run, pushing too hard into the corner and that cost me about four tenths. Without that I’d have finished a bit higher up the grid but now we have to focus on tomorrow’s race and aim for the same sort of performance we put in at the last race in Malaysia.”