March 15th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Caterham's 2013 campaign has got underway in Melbourne, with two practice sessions completed for Sunday's Australian Grand Prix. In general, the day went according to plan, with tyre evaluation and high fuel long runs taking up most of the two sessions. Charles Pic managed to complete a full testing programme, but Giedo van der Garde sat out the last hour of FP2 after getting stuck in the gravel on the exit of turn 3.
Caterham are fighting primarily with Marussia this year, as they have done in the past two seasons. And that fight seems to be going in Marussia's favour at this early stage of 2013. Jules Bianchi, making his debut for Marussia, was quicker than both Caterhams in both Free Practice sessions, and his team-mate Max Chilton was ahead of both Caterhams in FP1 but dropped behind Charles Pic in FP2. Caterham reserve driver Alexander Rossi was in the BBC commentary box for both sessions and explained that Caterham were not surprised by that state of affairs, but expressed confidence that the order would be different in the race on Sunday. We shall see.
For Charles Pic, this season must be about building on the experienced he gained last year as a Marussia driver. His team-mate, Giedo van der Garde, is in his rookie season and therefore has much to learn. It is expected that Pic should be faster initially, and he is, but Van der Garde has shown in other series that he is quick and will no doubt learn and progress until he matches or betters his team-mate. Unfortunately for Van der Garde, he made a mistake in FP2 that cost him a full hour of practice - under braking for turn 3, he locked his rear tyres, which meant he had to run onto the gravel on the outside of the corner. He failed to keep the engine revs up sufficiently and the anti-stall system kicked in, which prevented him from maintaining drive through the gravel trap. Instead, his car was beached in the gravel, and his session was over.
Tomorrow will be an important day for Caterham. Qualifying, if it is dry, will be the first proper indication of relative pace of the field, and Caterham will want to establish themselves ahead of Marussia at the start of the season. The back-end of the midfield could also be in reach - Pic was only eight tenths slower than Valtteri Bottas in the Williams in FP2, and will be looking to make up that difference in FP3 tomorrow ahead of qualifying.
Caterham's Free Practice results:
|22||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||1:32.388||5.177||18|
|22||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||1:32.450||6.542||11|
This is what the drivers had to say after Friday's running:
Charles Pic: “For our first full day of running that was ok. We definitely have work to do to get where we want to be and we knew where we’d be relative to the cars around us for the early part of the season, so there’s been no real surprises today.
“In FP1 we ran through a pretty normal program on the medium tyres but we have some work to do to extract the maximum performance from them so we’ll look at that tonight and do more work on that in FP3. In FP2 we did a couple of longer runs on that compound before switching to the supersofts and found that deg levels on those was good, especially on the long runs, and the times were consistent. Now we need to make sure we can get the same performance level out of the mediums as we did on the supersofts and that will set us up ok for Sunday.“
Giedo van der Garde: “First I want to say how good it was to start my first full F1 weekend. I’ve worked very hard for a long time to get here and a lot of people have helped make my dream come true, so I want to thank them for helping make it happen.
“On track FP1 was good – we got through a decent number of laps and focused mainly on tyre evaluation, running on the mediums for the whole session so we could have a detailed look at degradation levels on that compound. FP2 started ok – on the first run I had some understeer that we dialled out for the second run but unfortunately I have a bit of rear locking as I went into T3 and went into the gravel. The anti-stall kicked in before I could get the car back out and that was the end of my afternoon.
“Despite that we have a lot of data to work through tonight and we’ll come back fighting tomorrow. We’ll have to make the most of FP3 but I’m looking forward to it and it’s all part of the learning process for me.”