While the Formula 1 field takes a well-earned moment to rest and recharges its batteries ahead of the second half of the season, the RichardsF1.com team has taken the opportunity to review each driver and team and their performances over the first eleven rounds of the season.
As the summer shutdown comes to an end, our last installment takes a look a the troubles that have befallen the Caterham F1 Team, and how F1 returnee Kamui Kobayashi is stacking up against rookie driver Marcus Ericsson.
While the past four years have seen the battle to get off the back of the grid waged between Caterham, Marussia – and HRT, while they staggered along – the 2014 season has seen the green machines mired at the back and with few signs of improvement.
To describe Caterham’s season to-date as chaotic would be a master of understatement, and its short-term future remains extremely unclear. Team founder Tony Fernandes stated from the off that he would sell up or shut down if the team couldn’t show significant improvement, and he was true to his word – despite some woeful PR-speak to deny it in the lead up – when he sold the team to a group of Swiss and Middle Eastern investors before the British Grand Prix.
While their identity remains a mystery, the new management headed by Christijan Albers (team principal) and Colin Kolles (advisor) are rather more known qualities: the pair followed the traditional Kolles model of cleaning out many of the established staff and installing figures from Kolles’ Odewa racing group to try and right the floundering ship. It led to a nasty and unfortunately public legal row that will play out for some months.
While they may be leading from the front foot, the team’s CT05 has been troubled from the outset and is sorely lacking in development. Granted, it was easily the most reliable of the Renault-powered runners in pre-season testing, but it was miles off the pace – barely quicker than a GP2 Series machine on some circuits. It looks a handful to drive and the team will be pinning its hopes on a much needed major upgrade that’s due for the Belgian Grand Prix.
The new package will have to deliver if the team has a hope of snatching tenth place in the Constructors’ Championship, but their prospects look decidedly thin. If the team can manage that, it might be enough to keep the outfit going into 2015.
But it also needs significant investment: expect changes in its driver line-up if it can get enough interest from some well-heeled pay drivers. It won’t be enough to keep the team going long-term, but it will at least keep the wolves at bay until the end of the year.
RichardsF1.com Rating: 2/10
|Rank||Constructor||Races||DNS||Poles||Wins||Podiums||FL||Laps Led||Laps Raced||DNF||Pts.|
|11th||Caterham F1 Team||11||0||0||0||0||0||0||971/1396||9||0|
Marcus Ericsson was something of a surprise inclusion in Caterham’s line-up, although both seats at the team were very much going to the highest bidders. Despite some success over several years in the GP2 Series, he’s struggled to adapt to Formula 1. In fairness, however, he’s hardly been given the equipment or the surrounds to set him up for success.
All rookies take time to acclimatise, but Ericsson has taken much longer in comparison to the success that his counterparts, Kevin Magnussen and Daniil Kvyat, have enjoyed.
He’s been consistently off the pace of teammate Kamui Kobayashi – spinning or crashing on four occasions in qualifying in his attempt to keep up – while in the races he’s barely been able to keep pace with Max Chilton’s Marussia.
His rather anonymous drive to eleventh at Monaco was a bittersweet due to Marussia’s success and a clumsy qualifying crash with Felipe Massa. He’s also had heavy crashes at Malaysia and in Hungary, which was not the way to enter the summer break.
Simply put: he needs to significantly improve in order to shed the ‘pay driver’ label. Consistently keeping out of trouble and running closer to the pace of his much more experienced teammate would be an achievement.
RichardsF1.com Rating: 3/10
You have to feel for Kamui Kobayashi. Having raised enough funds from fan donations to make himself a marketable prospect for an F1 comeback, he was hired by former owner Tony Fernandes, but now finds his position under serious threat as the team’s new heads look for ways to raise more money to see out the season.
The Japanese driver has driven impressively despite the circumstances. Splitting the Marussias might not look like much of an achievement on paper, but such is the handling of the car it’s quite an achievement in itself. But he’s kept it on the island and been error-free in his driving, and when you’re not bringing a huge purse with you, it certainly helps with raising your stock and keeping the repair bills down.
His biggest disappointment came at Monaco, where he ran ahead of Jules Bianchi until the Marussia pilot barged his way ahead in a move that ultimately cemented the Frenchman an all-important ninth-placed finish. An unimpressed Kobayashi’s car was damaged in the contact, and he faded to thirteenth.
With rumours aplenty doing the rounds that he will be replaced by a potential merry-go-round of pay drivers, his future on the grid remains very much under a cloud.
It will be a poor decision by the team to dispense with an experienced charger like Kobayashi, but the team’s situation is what it is and there is no room for sentiment in this game. One hopes at least that he will get the opportunity to start on home soil at Suzuka, where he can at least pay thanks to his native fans whose cash donations helped get him back on the grid.
RichardsF1.com Rating: 6/10
Images via XPB Images