Feature: Bidding farewell to Caterham
6 March 2015 – Formula 1 lined up with 11 teams in 2014, but this year will see only 10 enter the championship. GPUpdate.net reflects on Caterham – née Lotus Racing and Team Lotus – and its time in the top echelon.
Formula 1 history is littered with defunct racing teams and the latest to join the unhappy pile is Caterham, which competed for five years under three different guises but was unable to claim a solitary top 10 finish.
Caterham began life under the banner of Lotus Racing, after a collaboration between Litespeed and Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes resulted in the team securing one of the vacant slots on the 2010 Formula 1 grid.
Lotus Racing managed to get its two cars – which used Cosworth engines and Xtrac gearboxes – ready in time and arrived in Bahrain as the new team in the best shape, as both Hispania and Virgin Racing struggled.
Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli spent much of the campaign a little clear of the Hispania/Virgin battle but significantly behind the midfield crop. A couple of accidents – Kovalainen being hit by Webber at Valencia and Trulli's crash with Karun Chandhok in Monaco – gained the team some attention, albeit unwanted.
Kovalainen's 12th place finish in Japan nonetheless secured 10th position in the Constructors' standings for the squad and earned it the mantle of the best new team.
The team name was tweaked to Team Lotus for 2011, Renault supplied engines and a new technical partnership with Red Bull Technology was formed but the squad stagnated. Despite a few brief glimmers of hope – such as the occasional Q2 appearance – Trulli's pair of 13th places proved the highlight as the team secured 10th in the championship once again.
The year, however, was marred by a messy affair over the rights to the 'Lotus' moniker, with the team eventually opting to re-name as Caterham for 2012, after Fernandes' acquisition of the company.
Vitaly Petrov replaced Trulli and the car was reliable but lacking in pace as neither he nor Kovalainen were able to challenge for points. Indeed, an improving Marussia threatened Caterham's position courtesy of Timo Glock's 12th position in Singapore.
But Petrov finished 11th at the season-ending Brazilian Grand Prix to claw back 10th in the Constructors' championship from its rivals.
Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic were recruited for 2013 but a slow start proved costly as Marussia's Jules Bianchi claimed what would be a vital 13th in Malaysia. Caterham hired Kovalainen back as a test driver to aid development and, while the car improved sufficiently for Van der Garde and Pic to regularly outrace Marussia, they couldn't beat Bianchi's early result.
Van der Garde's inspired tyre choice during changeable weather in Q1 at Spa-Francorchamps enabled him to finish third in that session – a rare highlight of a difficult season as the team brought up the foot of the table.
Another all new line-up arrived in the form of Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson but 2014 proved to be a turbulent final campaign for Caterham as Fernandes followed through with his threat to quit the team if results did not improve.
The outfit's CT05 chassis was weak and, allied to Renault's problems, it left them playing catch-up. Ericsson finished 11th in Monaco but his result was bittersweet as rival Marussia claimed its first points with a ninth-place finish courtesy of Bianchi.
The ownership changed hands mid-season but the situation remained unclear with both parties exchanging barbs in unceremonious fashion. The team entered administration and missed two races but returned for one – and as it turned out, final – race in Abu Dhabi at the behest of the administrators and courtesy of a crowdfunding effort, with Kobayashi and Will Stevens at the wheel.
But its 11th position in the Constructors' championship for a second successive campaign severely dented its hopes of a revival and, after several fruitless months, the administrators threw in the towel and put the assets up for auction, thus signalling the end of the road once and for all.
Caterham ended its Formula 1 journey having entered 94 races with 10 different drivers – a further eight competed only in practice sessions, with four more participating in testing. It achieved a best grid slot of 14th (twice) and a highest finish of 11th position (again, twice).
It has joined more famous outfits on the scrapheap but during a five-year stint in the sport earned a legion of supporters, brought a bit of fun to the paddock and was always welcoming.
Thanks, 'team green'.
Written by: Phillip Horton
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Caterham's Formula 1 journey