Formula 1 mid-season review: Caterham
14 August 2014 – As the Formula 1 fraternity enjoys the summer break, GPUpdate.net takes the opportunity to analyse team and driver performances over the first 11 rounds of the 2014 season. For the final instalment, we cover the troubles at Caterham, and how returnee Kamui Kobayashi and rookie Marcus Ericsson have fared.
Whereas regular rivals Marussia kicked up a gear in 2014, Caterham has remained rooted to the back of the grid, with little reason for optimism. It has been a tumultuous season for the Leafield-based team and its future remains unclear. Tony Fernandes asserted pre-season that he would walk if matters didn't improve and he made good on his promise, selling the squad to a group of Swiss and Middle Eastern investors prior to the British Grand Prix. The new owners hired Colin Kolles as a consultant, with Christijan Albers asTeam Principal, and promptly dispensed with some of the workforce – leading to a nasty, public legal row. Albers is an astute businessman but only so much can be done with a troublesome machine that is lagging behind its rivals in terms of development. The car looks horrible to drive from trackside and the team is pinning its hopes on a long overdue development package for the Belgian Grand Prix. The target for the rest of the season is to secure 10th in the Constructors' Championship, but achieving that will take a minor miracle. Is there a long term plan in place to re-structure at the factory and improve the team, or is it 2014 or bust?
Kamui Kobayashi: 7/10
Kamui Kobayashi was lured back to Formula 1 largely by Fernandes so you have to feel sympathy for the Japanese driver now that the former owner has departed the scene. Kobayashi has done the best he can with the errant CT05 and came close to a point in Monaco, as he was running ahead of Bianchi until the Marussia man muscled through – a move which left Kobayashi thoroughly unimpressed. Elsewhere, Kobayashi has put his head down and occasionally split the Marussias in qualifying. He has raced them frequently, although sadly his brilliant last lap pass on Jules Bianchi went unrewarded in China due to a procedural error by race control. Kobayashi's future in the sport looks uncertain, but expect the grandstands at Suzuka to turn a deep shade of green as they fanatically support their feisty hero.
Marcus Ericsson: 4/10
Marcus Ericsson was a surprise addition to the field and it's fair to say the Swede has struggled in difficult circumstances. Every rookie needs a grace period in the sport, although Ericsson's errors have been magnified by the ease at which Kevin Magnussen and Daniil Kvyat have adapted to the sport. Ericsson has been consistently off the pace of team-mate Kobayashi in qualifying – and spun off/crashed four times in doing so – while in the races he's usually only had Max Chilton for brief company. A high profile error in Monaco was embarrassing while an unassuming drive to 11th in the race was bittersweet due to Marussia's success. And his shunt in Hungary was not the way a struggling team wants to enter the summer break, so Ericsson will have to step it up soon if he wants to shed the pay driver tag. Staying out of trouble would be a start – no backmarker outfit enjoys having to throw money at new front wings – and getting closer to the more experienced Kobayashi, sporadically beating him, would be progress.
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