Caterham will definitely have at least one change in its 2014 driver line-up, after team principal Cyril Abiteboul confirmed that Charles Pic – who joined the team last year on a multi-year agreement – will not be driving for the Leafield outfit this year.
Twenty-three-year-old Pic made his F1 debut with Marussia in 2012 before switching to rival outfit Caterham the following year.
Supported by the team’s engine partner Renault – in addition to a hefty amount of backing from his family’s haulage business – his arrival saw the team increase its technical ties with the French carmaker, but it wasn’t enough to see the team finish inside the top ten in the Constructors’ Championship standings.
While Pic may have impressed in his debut season of F1 against a formidable teammate (Timo Glock), his sophomore season was rather more anonymous, although he still beat teammate Giedo van der Garde 11-8 in qualifying and 8-4 in head-to-head race finishes.
The quiet and introverted Frenchman always appeared to struggle in the media spotlight, and his manner wasn’t conducive to getting the team some much-needed media attention at the other end of the paddock.
His rather expected departure was confirmed by Caterham team principal Cyril Abiteboul in an interview with France’s Infosport+.
“Unfortunately, Charles will not be with us [in 2014],” Abiteboul said.
“It is unfortunate that the partnership has ended. However, I want to thank Charles for the job he did last year.”
Well-placed sources are claiming that the team’s 2014 line-up will comprise of former Toyota and Sauber driver Kamui Kobayashi and GP2 Series veteran Marcus Ericsson.
As Japan’s most successful F1 driver, Kobayashi needs little introduction, and he would make a welcome return to F1 after showing some impressive speed in Ferrari’s GT line-up in the World Endurance Championship last year, having been unable to secure a deal to remain on the F1 grid when dropped by Sauber at the end of 2012.
Ericsson, a three-time race winner in GP2, is equally no slouch behind the wheel, although his arrival would surely have to come with a mountain of commercial backing if he has been successful in gazumping both Pic and van der Garde.
Quite where their appointments would leave the team’s test and reserve drivers, Heikki Kovalainen and Alexander Rossi, remains to be seen.
Kovalainen managed to keep his eye in and showcase his development skills with a handful of Friday practice outings for Caterham, but when given the opportunity to return to racing as a ‘super sub’ with Lotus, he failed rather spectacularly. His first race at Austin was solid enough, but he was rather hopeless next time out in Brazil. Added to that, his stubborn refusal to look for sponsorship could cost him a seat in 2013.
Rossi (pictured right) remains one of the great untapped talents waiting in the F1 wings, and – aside possibly from Conor Daly – he is the only American who stands a realistic chance of getting into F1.
While he initially struggled in his first season of the GP2 Series last year, he started to come good at the end, peaking with an excellent win at Abu Dhabi. Another year honing his skills for Caterham’s F1 and GP2 operations would not be a bad thing.