Despite many a team manager’s pronouncements of the importance of stability in their driver line-ups while the sport’s technical regulations are being overhauled, only two teams – Mercedes and Marussia – have kept the same driver line-up from last year to this.
On the other end of the scale, two teams – Force India and Caterham – have opted for a complete reset in the cockpit, and today it was the turn of the latter to finally unveil its line-up for the 2014 season.
As has been suspected for the past couple of weeks, the Leafield team will field Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson in its F1 race line-up, with Robin Frijns and Alexander Rossi as reserve drivers.
Rossi will also compete in Caterham’s GP2 Series team for a second season, where he will be joined by the Indonesian driver, Rio Haryanto.
Meet Caterham’s new line-up (L-R): Kobayashi, Ericsson, Frijns, Rossi, and Haryanto.
“I’m very pleased we can finally unveil our F1 and GP2 drivers for the year ahead. The process may have taken longer than we’d have liked, but we didn’t want or need to be rushed into such important decisions and we have been in the happy position of having a wide range of drivers to choose from for both series,” Caterham F1 team principal Cyril Abiteboul said.
“I believe that we have exciting, dynamic talents in both F1 and GP2 and I know just how excited everyone in the F1 team and Caterham Racing are about working with all five drivers,” he added.
The return of Kobayashi will be one of the most popular comebacks of 2014, following the Japanese driver being sidelined for the 2013 season (albeit in no less a training ground than Ferrari’s GT team) after losing his drive with Sauber.
His return to the grid comes courtesy of some $6 million in funds raised by his own fans, who pooled together donations into the ‘Kamui Support’ fund, which have helped secure the 27-year-old a modest budget to bring to the table.
It’s a fact that the very relieved Kobayashi was quick to acknowledge, as he briefed the media at the team’s headquarters today.
“It’s a great feeling to be back as an F1 race driver and I’m really pleased it’s with Caterham F1 Team,” he said. “We’ve been talking to [them] since last year about driving for the team for 2014 and beyond and throughout all our discussions I’ve been very impressed with where they want to take the team, and how much investment has been made already to help them achieve their goals. For me, it’s a great honour that the team hired me based on the value I bring in racing terms, and the experience I have and I am so happy that I am able to make this announcement today. I will do my very best to lead the team and work as hard as possible to achieve our targets.
“I also want to give special thanks to all the fans who have made donations to KAMUI SUPPORT. Their donations and gestures gave me extra strength to come back fighting and I am very pleased that the money they raised not only helped me but will now go to helping Caterham progress this year. Every single one of you who helped with KAMUI SUPPORT will race with me in 2014 and that makes me very proud.”
Kobayashi’s 2014 teammate will be Marcus Ericsson, a former race-winner in the GP2 Series who will become the first Swedish driver to race in F1 since Stefan Johansson in 1991.
“Marcus is a driver who has prepared perfectly for the step up to F1 with his graduation through the ranks,” Abiteboul said of his newest signing.
“He started his single-seat career by winning Formula BMW UK in 2007 and rose through the ranks to GP2 where, last year, he won in Germany, scored two poles, three fastest laps and five podiums. He’s physically and mentally prepared for what lies ahead, and he will have all the support we can give him across the team to help him fulfill his obvious potential in Formula One.”
“This is a very proud day for me and everyone who has helped make my F1 dream come true. I’ll be making the step up to F1 with Caterham F1 Team in 2014 and I’m already excited about the season ahead, and the first race in Australia in particular,” the 23-year-old Ericsson said.
“It’s obviously great for Sweden that we’ll have a Swedish driver back on the grid in 2014. This is what I’ve been working for since I first started racing karts back when I was nine years old, and now I know I’m ready for the step up to F1. Caterham is a young team and together we can take on the challenges the new rules will present in 2014 – learning together and continuing to develop as the season progresses.”