29 March 2012
Fernandes: Caterham still in early development stages
Tony Fernandes insists that Caterham F1 is still on target to achieve its goals despite a sluggish start to 2012.
Tony Fernandes insists that he is not too disappointed with the performance of his Caterham F1 team in the opening two rounds of the 2012 world championship, despite neither car actually fighting with the established midfield runners.
Strong starts and pit-stop windows apart, both Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov continue to find themselves in the no mans land between the likes of Toro Rosso, Williams and Sauber and backmarkers HRT and Marussia, too good for one group, but not quite quick enough to join the other.
Fernandes remains unbowed, however, insisting that he is happy with the gains made by the Hingham-based team's own 2011 standards, and promising that has not yet reached its 2012 peak.
"We have a long-term plan to achieve our goals and, while this is year three, it is also still the early stages of our development," he told the official F1 website.
"In year one, we just had to finish tenth - a pretty sensational achievement in its own right, having started from literally zero six months before the first race. In year two, we had to reinforce our position in the top ten teams and continue to build the foundations. In year three, we have closed the gap further to the teams ahead, but there is still work to do to make us truly competitive with the established teams who have decades of experience behind them.
"In Malaysia, we did show the sort of race pace we enjoyed in Australia, where both cars were posting similar lap times to teams who were regular points scorers in 2011. And, if you take where the reigning champion finished, then we walked home from a very difficult race with our heads held high!
"For sure, we know how hard it is to bridge the gap to the midfield and we are fighting like tigers to do that - at our home race in Malaysia and at every race we compete in worldwide."
Despite the gap between Caterham and the midfield, which has reduced but not disappeared, Fernandes insists that his outfit is among the few to have found pace over the winter which, he says, bodes well for the future, despite neither car finishing in Australia and recording a best of 16th, with Petrov, in the Malaysian race.
"The goal for mid-season is the same as it is for the whole year ahead," he claimed, "We know what is achievable, and breaking into the midfield is a huge challenge, so the reasonable target is tenth again. The 'stretch' target - what we want to push everyone to achieve - is to be fighting in the midfield pack and, when you look back to the pace we showed in Australia, that is not beyond the realms of possibility.
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