F1 » Caterham F1
The 1Malyasia Racing Team was a late entry into F1 for the 2010 season after BMW elected to quit the sport, leaving a race against time to prepare for its debut season.
Running as Lotus Racing under a licence agreement with Group Lotus, the team showed it was serious about making the move into F1 by naming Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli as drivers for its debut season, while Mike Gascoyne was taken on to oversee the technical side of the operation.
Despite being the last of the new teams to be confirmed on the grid, Lotus were ready for the start of the 2010 season and picked up a double finish in the first race of the year to quickly establish themselves as the best of the newcomers. While neither driver would manage to break into the points, Kovalainen managed to make it through to the second stage of qualifying in both Malaysia and Belgian and took a best finish twelfth in China.
Although Trulli was unable to match that, with his best being 13th in Japan, Lotus ended the year having picked up the all-important tenth place in the constructors’ championship and the financial rewards that came with it.
Having switched to Renault engines and with a gearbox and hydraulic system provided by Red Bull, hopes were high of an improved performance in 2011 as the team looked to close the gap to the midfield.
Now running as Team Lotus, the gap to the midfield did come down with Kovalainen in particular able to mix it with the likes of Williams and Toro Rosso as the season went on. Despite the Finn’s best efforts, a top ten finish proved to be elusive although the team would again finish the campaign tenth in the standings ahead of both Virgin and HRT.
Many of the headlines regarding the team during its second season centred around the Lotus name after a breakdown in relations with Group Lotus – who elected to then back the Renault team for 2011. After a lengthy battle, Team Lotus elected to rebrand as Caterham for 2012 with team boss Tony Fernandes having purchased the British carmaker.
Heading into the 2012 season, hopes were high that the team would be able to build on the progress displayed in 2011 and move towards the midfield, with Caterham electing for a new-look line-up after Vitaly Petrov was brought in to replace Trulli shortly before the season got underway.
The new CT01 was ready for the start of pre-season testing but when the team arrived in Australia for the opening round of the year, it found itself in a similar situation to twelve months earlier; ahead of its fellow ‘new teams’ but off the back of the midfield.
As the season wore on, there were some highlights – such as Kovalainen qualifying 16th in Bahrain and Valencia, and also holding off the McLaren of Jenson Button for a long spell en-route to 13th in Monaco – but instead of pushing forward into the midfield, Caterham instead saw itself embroiled in a frantic battle to beat Marussia to tenth in the constructors’ championship.
The place had looked secure thanks to Kovalainen’s result in Monaco and a similar finish for Petrov in Valencia, but when Timo Glock managed to bring his Marussia home twelfth in Singapore, Caterham suddenly found itself knocked out of tenth spot in the constructors’ standings.
There would then be a frantic battle to reclaim the position before the season was at an end, and when Petrov managed to finish eleventh in an action-packed season finale in Brazil, it was enough to salvage tenth spot from a season that had ultimately failed to deliver as much as was hoped.
Changes have been made ahead of the 2013 season as Caterham seeks to progress, with Cyril Abiteboul replacing team owner Fernandes as team principal and a new look driver line-up, with Charles Pic moving over from Marussia and Giedo van der Garde stepping up from the reserve role. The team is also now settled in a new home at Leafield having moved into the former Arrows and Super Aguri base mid-way through 2012.
Having failed to deliver somewhat in 2012, Caterham heads into 2013 hoping for better and for no repeat of the issues faced last year.