May 23rd, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Caterham's Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde finished 20th and 22nd respectively in FP2 for Sunday's Monaco Grand Prix. The results may not be spectacular, but it was an encouraging day nonetheless.
The good news is both the drivers have good balance on both tyre compounds, which should translate into strong race pace on Sunday. Good balance also provides a platform to look for more performance in the car, rather than spending time making the car driveable. Charles Pic expressed confidence that there is more to come in FP3 on Saturday, based on the results of last week's aero testing and today's practice sessions.
For Giedo van der Garde, today's practice sessions were mainly about getting used to driving around Monte Carlo in an F1 car, as this is his first race at the principality as a Formula One driver. His time in FP2, which was eight tenths slower than team-mate Pic, was not representative of his pace as it was on used supersoft tyres. His first attempt on the supersofts was ruined by Romain Grosjean's accident that brought out double waved yellow flags in the first sector.
For Caterham this weekend, as usual, is about beating main rivals Marussia. Qualifying will be crucial, as it is next to impossible to pass at Monte Carlo. After that it will be all about tyre management, and the signs so far suggest that this year's Caterham is managing its tyres well around the street circuit.
This is what the team had to say after Thursday practice:
Charles Pic: “FP1 for me was ok. The steering felt a little light on the installation lap so we adjusted that, and then worked on dialling out the understeer I had on the first full run, and by run three we’d found a pretty good balance.
“That continued into the afternoon session and I’m pretty happy with how it ended. I didn’t get a clean run on the supersofts but on the long run we did on the options we found that we had quite good deg, good enough to give us some options for Sunday and the car felt good throughout the whole run.
“We ran an aero test last week, to help sort out a couple of the issues we found with the new package in Spain and in FP1 we ran further aero evaluation on what we learned at the straightline test. The initial results are good and that will give us even more to work on tonight, and give us more potential performance to extract tomorrow and on Sunday.
“Another really good thing today was that we found a balance that worked on both compounds quickly, so we were able to get everything we could out of both sessions. We didn’t have any issues that held us up, especially compared to the number of small problems we had in FP1 and FP2 in Spain, so that’s put us in a better position for Saturday and Sunday than we’ve been in all season.”
Giedo van der Garde: “I definitely enjoyed my first day in an F1 car in Monaco and I think we’ve made some good progress today. In FP1 the grip levels on track were as low as you’d expect, but it came in pretty well and by the end of the session it was possible to push round the whole lap. We had some issues with front locking and unfortunately I damaged a front wing on my third run, but other than that it was fine. We improved the traction throughout the session and started to dial out the oversteer I had on the first couple of runs.
“In FP2 the car immediately felt better after we’d made a couple of setup and parts changes, and the hotter track conditions helped the tyres come in more quickly so my first run was good. We went onto the supersofts and waited for a gap in the traffic but then on my quick lap the red flags came out when Romain’s accident damaged the barriers. That was bad timing as I was definitely on my fastest lap of the day and I think we’d have been looking at a time around the mid-1.17s, more representative of our real pace today. But, FP1 and FP2 aren’t about the quickest laps. They’re about what we did today which was work through the program, start to understand how to manage the tyres and generate as much data as we can for the guys to work on at the track and back at the factory. I’m sure Saturday we’ll show what we can do around here and I think the tyre strategies are going to make it very interesting!”