It may only have been over tenth place in the constructors' championship, but the battle between Vitaly Petrov and Charles Pic in the Brazilian Grand Prix carried greater significance for the Caterham team.
New team principal Cyril Abiteboul admitted that, while Petrov's eleventh place at Interlagos was vital to Caterham's financial situation, being a part of a battle that carried some significance to the season as a whole had been equally gratifying, particularly after the squad failed in its aim to close the gap to the midfield regulars.
“The end of the Brazil race meant two things to me,” the Frenchman told the official F1 website, “Firstly, it means we are on a better financial footing than if we had finished eleventh, [and] the benefits of that are obvious [as] it means we have not had to compromise our 2013 or future plans. The money is obviously important, but what finishing tenth also meant to me was that it showed our team what it felt like to be part of the show, and that's something that has been missing for most of the 2012 season.
“We started out with a good gap to the teams behind, and with work to do to catch the teams ahead. At the European GP in Valencia, we were as close as we've ever been to truly racing one of the teams ahead, but since then we have been almost racing on our own. That means the boys in the garage and everyone back at the factory has been missing the adrenaline rush of real competition, missing the emotional highs of success. The power those emotions have to inspire is undeniable. Our whole team had that feeling for every lap of the Brazilian race, and it was very special to see what it meant to everyone when Vitaly brought his car home in eleventh. This positive energy will be immensely useful for the work we have ahead of us over the winter.”
Since it joined the F1 fray as Lotus Racing back in 2010, the now Leafield-based squad has always been the best in the 'third division' it formed with fellow newcomers Marussia (nee Virgin) and HRT (nee Hispania), but has so far failed to bridge the gap to the likes of Toro Rosso
that would make it a genuine midfield contender.
“Absolutely, we cannot be satisfied with that title anymore,” Abiteboul confirmed, “I would like to be able to say that we raced teams ahead of us and had some more of what we felt in Brazil. However, I think maybe we overstated what was achievable in 2012.
“For 2013, I'd like to look back and say we continued to develop as a team, seized whatever opportunities came our way and surprised a few people, without compromising the preparation for 2014. For small teams like us, [the new regulations package of] 2014 is just as much a major risk - due to our size in particular – as it is an interesting opportunity, due to the quality of the technical relationship with Renault.
“[However], we have the capacity to do that and we are determined to fight harder than ever to succeed, so I hope 2013 is a year we remember for the right reasons.”
Caterham has already confirmed Pic as one half of its line-up for next season, but remains in limbo as to the identity of the Frenchman's team-mate [[ see separate story
]. Deciding between money and talent is just one of the more political aspects of Abiteboul's role since succeeding Tony Fernandes at the head of the Malaysian's F1 project a couple of months ago.