Caterham F1 suffered one of its worst results of the 2012 F1 season in Singapore last weekend but, even without the technical problems that beset both Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov, was already under pressure from a revitalise Marussia squad.

While the Russian-owned outfit went on to enjoy its best ever finish on the streets of Marina Bay, Caterham was left to lick the wounds inflicted by finishes of 15th and 19th, but technical director Mark Smith insists that there will be no knee-jerk reaction to being deposed from the lucrative tenth spot in the constructors' standings which it has occupied in each of its previous two seasons in the top flight.

"It's not a big surprise, we know that Marussia has closed the gap and have made lots of big progress," Smith told F1 reporter Stephen English, "For probably the last five or six races, certainly since Silverstone, we are trying to evaluate so much stuff in the first free practice session that, inevitably, what falls down the priority list is optimising the set-up of the car. We're still trying to do lots of evaluations on little pieces of the car, and particularly anything to do with exhaust blowing, which we cant model very well, has to be on the car in that first free practice session.

"I suppose what I am saying is that we are going to have to resist the urge to panic in the first practice session, as there is that factor that we are not working too much on the car in that session.

"Also I think that, with the car we have, in terms of downforce, circuit evolution is a bigger factor for us. So, as the circuit rubbers in, we make better use of that and the car works better relative to some of the other cars. I think that's what we saw in FP2 and then FP3. I think, as we gravitate towards qualifying, as long as we do our homework well, we end up where we should be as opposed to dropping the ball in some way. I think, by and large, it's been a positive progression throughout the weekend."

Smith's revelation that the team is continuing to evaluate new developments this far into the season prompts the question whether the CT-01 will continue to be upgraded for the renewed fight with Marussia, or whether the work is being conducted largely with a view to next year, when Caterham has already announced that it will be running a development of its current car.

"What we are trying to do, and have been all season to be honest, is that when, we have a performance advantage - and I guess our view is that would be about a tenth of a second - then we try and bring that to the race," he explained, "Our aero gradient has been fairly constant at a certain number of points per week. I think that you can either try and build it up in a big step or increment it on a steady basis. I think it's just area under the curve that, if you increment on a steady basis, you will ultimately get more from it.

"Obviously there are implications, logistical and cost, associated with that, but I don't think that we've done anything where we thought, 'well, actually if we waited another race, we could have rolled that up and been more cost-effective'. With the budget that we have, I think that we always try to do the most cost-effective things anyway. Even compared to my stint with Renault, developments tended to be two or three big developments throughout the year, but it's really three, four or five years ago that we [made] this change to [it being] every race where every team is looking to take changes to the car. The development rate is very high.

"As with every other team, we do statistical analysis of our performance compared to our competitors and, if you take the three teams ahead of us - Toro Rosso, Williams and Force India - we are developing, broadly speaking, at the same rate as them from the beginning of the season to now. Given the resources that we have, I don't think that's too bad but, obviously, it's just matching them. We'll never catch people so, somehow, we have to make the jump and probably the biggest factor will be how much of a gain we can make in the close season.

"We do plan on developing right up until the last race because, for us, there are so many key parts to the overall architecture of the car that are the same [for next season]. We have the same engine, the same gearbox and other factors that will mean that there isn't a big architecture change for next year. This means that we can get new bits and pieces we will put them on because the development should be fairly continuous for next year."

Smith credits former McLaren man John Iley with backing the decision to move forward with an evolution of the CT-01 next season, and team boss Tony Fernandes with making the current progress a reality, but clearly has his sights on moving closer to the midfield in 2013, having been frustrated in that ambition this year.

"When John Iley joined us from McLaren [as chief designer], we looked at if there were any big conceptual things that we wanted to do," he revealed, "The technical group, before John's arrival, concluded that it would be more advantageous to develop the current car and evolve it and, when John joined, he agreed. So we are reasonably confident that evolving the car is probably going to give us the best development curve.

"One of the areas that we will move forward significantly this year is with the mechanical design of the car. I'm sure many people have been to the museum at Donington Park and it's amazing how quickly an F1 car dates and I think that contrast between our cars from this year and last is quite obvious. But that is enhanced by having a state of the art composite gearbox and KERS unit.

"We're fortunate to have those on the car that at the stage of the team's life we just couldn't have them on the car if we looked to do it ourselves. So it all does help and I think Tony's approach to things is quite different. He's definitely a go-getter and he's inspirational to a lot of the guys on the project and it's demonstrated, as you say, by the things that we do have on the car for a relatively young team that perhaps we wouldn't have ordinarily.

"I think that we'd all probably conclude that the reason that the whole grid, by and large, is closing up is because of regulation stability and it is diminishing returns. That's another factor that should come into us closing the gap more because we are further back and have more potential gains to make, so that's our development plan for next year. Normally, you make a big architectural change in the winter and you spend a couple of weeks in the winter flat-lining [with no development progressing]. We are planning on avoiding that."

based on an interview by Stephen English