April 20th, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Caterham have been struggling to match rivals Marussia in the early part of the season, but seem to have made significant progress in Bahrain. Updates to the rear-end of the Caterham worked well in Friday practice, and qualifying saw Charles Pic deliver lap times significantly faster than team-mate Giedo van der Garde, who was not running the updates.
After running both cars in China-specification for FP1, Caterham tested some rear-end updates on Charles Pic's car in FP2. There was an immediate improvement, so much so that the car was understeering as a result of the increase in rear grip. The team then made some changes to the setup of Pic's car overnight and the car was more balanced for Saturday's running. The changes clearly paid off, as Pic was much quicker than his team-mate and the two Marussia drivers.
Pic's Q1 time of 1:35.283 was nine tenths quicker than Jules Bianchi in the leading Marussia, and a full second faster than Van der Garde in the other, older-specification Caterham. Van der Garde will have the full set of updates on his car for the next race in Barcelona, which will greatly assist his performance.
Caterham have demonstrated the benefits of their updates in qualifying. The next test will be the race tomorrow. If the updates work as well as they did today, then Pic could be challenging the Williams pair of Maldonado and Bottas and possibly the Toro Rossos as well.
This is what the drivers had to say after qualifying:
Charles Pic: “I’m pretty happy with where we finished today. We’d obviously have liked to be a little higher up the grid but with the package we have here in Bahrain I think we got as much as we could today in quali, so we can be reasonably pleased. We have a couple of new parts here which have definitely helped us make some progress, and after a good FP3 we were well set for quali. Yesterday the car had quite a bit of understeer which is pretty much a direct result of putting on updates at the back of the car, but the changes we made overnight gave me a much more balanced car and the final lap time today in Q1 showed the progress we’ve made since last week. Now we need to carry that pace into tomorrow’s race and having seen relatively good deg levels on the long runs we could have an interesting fight with a few cars ahead.”
Giedo van der Garde: “For me that was a decent qualifying session and I’m happy with where we finished up, considering the fact I’m in the same car we’ve raced since Australia without the new parts Charles has been running here in Bahrain. Overall I’m pleased for the whole team as his laptime today is a sign of what we have to come and the amount of hard work everyone’s putting in to show how we can perform. In Spain I’ll have the same updates as my teammate and that’ll obviously mean I’ll be able to compete at the level he is, but for today I got nearly everything out of the car on that final lap and I think I can play an important role in the race tomorrow on a track that we’re clearly looking OK on.”