It has been a busy couple of weeks for the Caterham F1 team, but the effort and long hours will all be worth it if the Hingham operation can land its first point in the top flight.

A week of announcements - including a promotion for chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne, a tie-up with Arden which will see Caterham run in the World Series by Renault for the first time and, most recently, confirmation that Vitaly Petrov would be replacing Jarno Trulli in the second car - have kept the squad in the news, but all that was going on behind the scenes as the boys on the front line returned to track action in southern Spain last week.

After a winter of waiting - and pre-season preparation - four days in Jerez signalled the start of hostilities for 2012 as pre-season testing allowed the teams to stretch their legs and, in most cases, put valuable first miles on new cars. Caterham was no different and, having been the first to unveil its 2012 challenger thanks to a tie-in with a British racing magazine, it was also the first on track as Heikki Kovalainen wheeled the CT-01 out of the pit-lane as soon as the lights went green.

Track time, however, is only part of the testing story, as Caterham press officer Tom Webb revealed in a new column for Britain's Sun newspaper.

"It's a brutal start to the season for everyone who has to travel to and from each test and then arrive at work in the dark each day, only leaving up to 18 hours later to grab some sleep," he wrote, "But the tests are critical for the teams to iron out all the problems that could bring the cars to a halt when it matters over a race weekend, and learn how to get the ultimate performance out of them.

"Testing is usually cold, the hours are insane and it can be pretty monotonous. But we wouldn't change it for the world. It's F1 and it's mega. At least, that's what we tell ourselves every time the going gets a bit rough!"

Much has been made of the work the Caterham team was able to complete in the four days at Jerez, with Heikki Kovalainen running the opening two days before reserve Giedo van der Garde and veteran Trulli rounded out the session. With good mileage borne out of good reliability, there were plenty of satisfied faces in the camp.

"Most of the team who were in Jerez are already sporting bags under the eyes, [but race engineer] Gianluca Pisanello summed up the feeling in the team when he tweeted 'best first test I have ever been at'," Webb continued, "Gianluca usually tweets about how boring the journey home to Norfolk is, so that tweet proves what a good first week on track we have had!

"The mood in the camp is good. The 2012 car ran just over three times the number of miles at the Jerez test than at the same session in 2011. And this year's car looks like a big step forward.

The aim for the season ahead is to score our first point, a goal that on paper sounds easy but, in truth, requires millions of pounds of investment, some very clever brains working together in the right direction... and a lot of luck."

While the car used at Jerez was stripped it down to its bare chassis the minute it arrived back in Norfolk, and every one of its 4000 parts checked for cracks or damage, work continued on the other three chassis that will be used this year. Although the switch from Trulli to Petrov - confirmed after Webb filed his piece - will naturally require a few tweaks to the set-up, it won't add too much time to an already hectic schedule for what is still a small team by F1 standards.

"Most teams build a minimum of four chassis per season, using two as the race cars, one as a spare tub taken to races and the fourth for static tests run at the factory throughout the year," Webb revealed, "The drivers say they can feel minute differences between each one - and they definitely have their preferences. Heikki likes a car with a little bit of oversteer dialled in so he can adjust its cornering behaviour on the throttle. Jarno likes a neutral car that is perfectly balanced as it hits the apex in a corner."

After two years of fighting with, and generally beating Marussia and HRT, it is time for Caterham to move onwards and upwards, tackling the established midfield teams, if it is to achieve its ambition of marking the scoreboard.

"It's too early to tell what the 2012 car will be like when it's in full race spec, but it's good news for the team that the initial feedback from the guys behind the wheel has been so positive.," Webb concluded, "We've managed to sort out the budget and the people, now we're waiting to see how much luck the year ahead might bring."


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