Caterham F1 team boss Tony Fernandes is hoping that the unpredictability of F1 in Canada could allow his squad to take another step towards that elusive first point.
Buoyed by Heikki Kovalainen's 13th place in the recent Monaco Grand Prix, and news of further developments for the CT-01, have convinced the Malaysian that Caterham continues to move in the right direction towards respectability, and he sees no reason why Montreal, which has produced its fair share of unexpected point-scorers over the years, may be kind to the Hingham operation next weekend.
“I am still on a high after the race in Monaco," Fernandes admitted, "Moving back into tenth place is important, but there are 14 more races to come this season and we are taking nothing for granted. Next it is Canada, a race the whole team looks forward to, and possibly another one where we can spring a surprise.
"I am very realistic about what we have achieved so far, and I know that Monaco is a unique circuit that gave us the sort of opportunity we grabbed last Sunday, but I also know that as we continue through this season we keep making small but significant steps forward. Heikki's 13th place, and the battling performance he and the whole team put in, is another sign that all the hard work we have put in over the last two-and-a-half years is starting to pay off. During the Monaco race, I had some very good news from the factory about a new update we have planned for Silverstone and to see that come in while we were having our best race of the season was another sign that we are doing this in the right way."
After a good start, Kovalainen was able to get ahead of McLaren's Jenson Button, who was delayed by the spinning Romain Grosjean, and remained in front of the Briton until the latter got desperate and tried to force passing moves which eventually ended in his own retirement. Despite having to pit for a new front wing, after his original broke in a collision with Sergio Perez as the Mexican tried to take advantage of Button's initial move on the Caterham, Kovalainen managed to retain 13th place to the flag, bettering Marussia's various 14th-place finishes and putting the green-and-gold squad back into tenth overall.
While accepting that Montreal does not possess Monaco-style limitations when it comes to passing, Caterham technical director Mark Smith is hoping that the CT-01 continues to show progress as the tacticians tackle the temporary facility.
“The Montreal circuit is another fascinating challenge from a technical perspective," Smith admitted, "As a temporary street-style circuit, it is always very green when we start running on Friday, but the evolution level is not as high as somewhere like Monaco. The asphalt on the track surface is very smooth and has very low grip levels, so the tyre degradation rate is high throughout the whole weekend. As we have already seen this year, managing tyre wear is the key to both qualifying and the races, so tyre strategy will play an even more crucial role in Montreal than it has all season.
“The other major factor in Canada concerns the brakes. The track has a couple of very long straights with heavy braking zones at the end that lead into tight corners so it is pretty severe in terms of brake wear. We need to make sure we keep optimise the brake cooling every lap and while we do not have a specific brake duct set for Canada, we will be using the larger ones in our range to give us the best chance of managing the brake cooling. “
High attrition aside, the other factor that may help Caterham is the unpredictable Montreal weather, which can range from scorching to torrential around grand prix time.
"Last year, it obviously got so bad [that] we had to stop the race and, while that's not good for the fans, it's much safer for the drivers," Vitaly Petrov noted, "Hopefully, we won't have quite so much rain again this year but, if it does, we'll deal with it. I like racing in the wet, as it gives us more of a chance to fight a few cars ahead and it's an even better feeling in the car when you get it right in the wet. I have very good memories of Canada after finishing fifth there [for Renault] last year and I'm really looking forward to getting back to Montreal.”