Charles Pic claimed 'division three' honours in the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday to give the Caterham F1 team a slight lift after a difficult start to the 2013 season.
Pic, who had done well in qualifying the day before, lined up in 18th place on the grid and then enjoyed a solid race, eventually finishing in 17th ahead of both of the Marussia's of Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton, his team-mate, Giedo van der Garde, as well as the Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez. At the finish he was also just 9.7 seconds off the Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo in P16 and believes the performance at the Sakhir circuit is a sign the Leafield-based squad is making progress.
“That's our best race of the year so far and one the whole team should be pleased with,” Pic noted. “I quickly passed both the Marussia cars after starting on the medium tyres which held up for the first stint pretty well, allowing me to pit for the first time on lap 11. By that point the car felt good, well balanced and I was pulling away from the cars behind without any issues.
“We stayed on the hard tyres for the second stint and again the deg levels were good. I passed Gutierrez and was running comfortably in 16th until [Adrian] Sutil got past about two thirds of the way through the race. As the fuel levels dropped the deg levels increased a little but it wasn't an issue. I was keeping pace with Ricciardo just ahead, and keeping Gutierrez behind me and we decided to stay out after the third stop so I did a very long stint on the hard tyres, 21 laps, and brought it home in 17th.”
“[Overall] I'm really pleased with how close we finished to the Toro Rosso ahead, and the fact we kept a Sauber behind – maybe if I'd been slightly further up the road after the start we could have beaten Ricciardo, but we can take this performance as a good step and look forward to what's coming next in Spain,” he added.
Team-mate Giedo van der Garde meanwhile finished 21st and last in the sister car, having lost time at the start when he was unable to avoid Jean-Eric Vergne's Toro Rosso.
“I didn't have a great start but I was up to about 16th with a couple of other cars going into turn four and saw that Vergne had spun and was moving off the line. I tried to miss him but couldn't and we made contact which destroyed my front wing and basically ended my race on the first lap,” explained the Dutchman. “I couldn't really do anything from that point so I just got my head down and pushed but after losing so much time with the unplanned stop on lap one, and having a delaminated right front after my fourth stop, there really wasn't anyone to race with. From that point I just made sure I brought the car home and used this as another step in my learning curve.”
Despite his disappointment though, van der Garde wasn't too downbeat and he also reckons things are on the up: “It's been a good weekend for the team,” he continued. “The developments we put on my team-mate's car have worked well and there's another step to come in Spain when I'll have the same package as Charles. From that point I think my season will look different.
“We'll be on tracks I know really well, from GP2, World Series and from F1, and with the updates we have coming we have reasons to be positive. The first four races have been exactly what I thought they would – pretty tough, but I'm learning all the time and the whole team's right behind me. I'm feeling really good physically and mentally and I can't wait to get started again in Barcelona.”