Vitaly Petrov admits it is still too early to expect Caterham to challenge for points when the F1 season continues in China next weekend.
Although the team started 2012 aiming to try and break into the top ten, it's performance so far has been similar to last season – when it was ahead of fellow newcomers Marussia and HRT but still just behind the established order.
Petrov scored his first finish in Caterham colours last time out at Sepang, but heading into a race where he has scored points for the past two years, the Russian said there was plenty still to be done before the team can hope to fight for top ten placings.
"Next up though it's China,” he said. “I've been in the points for the last two years in Shanghai and while it would obviously be great to repeat that in 2012 with Caterham I suspect it might be a bit too early in the season for us to get a point in China. It's not a particularly hard circuit to drive, it's not too technical but you have to make sure you get it right through the tight section from turns one to four, and the same from eleven to 13 as you head onto the straight.
“You can make up or lose quite a bit of time in both those sequences and that means setting up the cars to have the right balance between the high speed run down to T14, meaning less drag, and the slower turns in sectors one and three, both of which need much more downforce.”
Technical director Mark Smith said the team would take a series of updates to China to try and improve performance and close the gap to the teams ahead.
“As we head to Shanghai for the third race of 2012 we know that we still have some margin to work on to extract the best from the car and the tyres in both qualifying and the race itself,” he said. “We have been looking at this in detail since returning from Malaysia and have a number of plans in place to help us move forwards as soon as we get on track in Shanghai.
"Externally, we will be running the cars in high downforce configurations and we have bodywork updates targeted at increased load and more efficient cooling, given the lower ambient temperatures we will to see in Shanghai. China is not especially tough on brakes but we also have a couple of updates in this area."