Charles Pic has made the right move in swapping Marussia for Caterham in 2013, according to manager Olivier Panis, despite the Leafield team appearing to trail its rival over the first two races of the season.
The 23-year old switched camps at the end of his debut season – a decision that many felt coincided neatly with Vitaly Petrov's move on him at the Brazilian Grand prix which secured tenth in the constructors' standings for Caterham – but neither Pic nor rookie team-mate Giedo van der Garde has been able to better Marussia signing Jules Bianchi
so far this year.
The presence of dumped 2012 Caterham driver Heikki Kovalainen
in the pits at Sepang also created rumours that he may be drafted back into the line-up, and the announcement that Pic would stand down for reserve Ma Qing Hua in FP1 at the Chinese Grand Prix
added weight to suggestions that it would the Frenchman's position most under threat.
Panis, however, insisted that the decision to join Caterham had been the right one for his client, pointing out that the team had a raft of developments planned for the start of the European campaign in Barcelona next month.
“It is going very well in Caterham,” the former Ligier, Prost, BAR and Toyota
driver told France's sports.fr
“Charles has had a lot to learn, including KERS which involves a lot of manipulation of the steering wheel, but he has acclimatised well.
“It was known already that the beginning of the season would be a bit complicated, with three or four slightly more difficult grands prix pending developments, so it has been more about reliability as well as the future of the team. Melbourne was not easy, but it was much better in Malaysia, and we hope to continue in the same direction in China. The team wants to make progress grand prix after grand prix, and season after season.”
Having missed the first practice session at Shanghai International, it was no surprise to see Pic trailing team-mate van der Garde in FP2, with six-tenths separating the two green-and-yellow machines after 90 minutes, but the Frenchman could point to a problematic start to his afternoon as reason for the difference.
“It didn't start all that well, as it felt like I had a hydraulics problem early on the first run,” he reported, “We took a look at it in the garage and managed to sort it out pretty quickly, but that problem did mean we lost enough time to miss one of the runs and that was important for giving us enough options on car set-up.
“Despite that, we got on with the normal programme, running a couple of set-up options on the medium tyres, then onto the performance run on the softs and finishing with a long run on the softs to see how they hold up over a longer distance. The quickest lap times seem to be on the first lap on the softs, but I didn't have a clean lap on my fastest run and that hit my time.
“However, we've completed a lot of mileage today and have a couple of set-up options to look at for tomorrow, so we'll look for areas to improve tonight and, hopefully, we can push on tomorrow.”