F1 » 18 July 2012
Kovalainen, Caterham target belated improvement
Heikki Kovalainen is hoping for better weather at Hockenheim so that Caterham can fine-tune its latest drvelopments.
It should have come at Silverstone two weekends ago, but Heikki Kovalainen is confident that Caterham can finally get its latest upgrade package to produce the desired results in the German Grand Prix.
The miserable weather conditions at the team's home race prevented it from being able to fine tune the developments fitted to the CT-01, leaving Kovalainen and team-mate Vitaly Petrov back in the no-man's land between the established midfield runners and the two slowest teams, Marussia and HRT. Just a fortnight earlier, the pair had been able to out-qualify and then race with the two Toro Rosso entries in Valencia, and the Finn is hoping that a drier weekend at Hockenheim will allow the team to rejoin the fight.
“We're back to a track that is more low speed compared to Silverstone, but one that still has quite a lot of the lap on full throttle," he mused, "It used to have one of the longest flat-out sections of all F1 tracks but, since that was taken out of the lap, you need a car that has a balance between good traction for the low speed corners and good top speed to take advantage of the overtaking opportunities into turn six.
“One of the main objectives for us will be to have as much track time as we can to keep working on the upgrades we brought to Silverstone. We definitely didn't get as much out of them as we had hoped, mainly due to the lack of dry running we had, so hopefully we'll be able to have a dry Friday so we can work through the set-up options and unlock more of the speed we know is there.”
Determined to see Caterham continue to pick up pace - and places - over the second half of the season, Kovalainen will even overlook celebrations for what will be his 100th grand prix involvement. It is a landmark he celebrates with fellow 2007 debutant Lewis Hamilton, although the Finn will only make his 99th race start on Sunday, having been denied an appearance in the 2010 Spanish Grand Prix by mechanical gremlins.
"That's a good milestone to reach and I'm pleased I'll be able to celebrate it with a really good team of people, and a lot of friends in the paddock, [but], whatever happens, the race weekend will definitely be good," Kovalainen claimed, "The German fans are about as passionate as anywhere we go in the world and there's always a great atmosphere around the whole place. I remember when I was at McLaren, going past the Mercedes stand and seeing all the fans holding up boards with my name on – that's pretty cool and even though, this year, it'll be other drivers' names they're holding up, I'm always given a really warm welcome.”
Team-mate Petrov, meanwhile, will merely be hoping to get as far as the Mercedes stand, having been denied a start at Silverstone by pre-race fuel pump failure.
“The back to back weekends in Germany and Hungary mark the last races before the summer break and both should give us a chance to get back to the performance levels we have targeted for this stage of the season," technical director Mark Smith insisted, “We start at Hockenheim, where we last raced in 2010. The team has obviously progressed significantly since then, and now we can realistically look at fighting with a few of the cars ahead.
"At Silverstone, we did not maximise the new aero package we brought, but the specific demands of Hockenheim definitely give us a chance to do so. Obviously, we will have also had more time to analyse the data we generated over the weekend, so I am reasonably confident we will be able to get back to where we want to be.
“Technically, Hockenheim is all about mediums. Brake wear and brake cooling are medium, downforce levels are between medium and high and this is a track where the stresses on the engine and the gearbox are in the mid-range. This means the drivers can be aggressive throughout the whole lap and that puts the onus on the engineers to find set-ups that allow them to push as much as possible, in the high speed sections and into the twisty bits in the stadium. If we can do that successfully, and fine tune the revised exhausts and bodywork, I think we can have a good weekend.”
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