August 23rd, 2013 (F1Plus / Chris Cameron-Dow) - Heikki Kovalainen returned to the cockpit of the Caterham CT03 today in the first practice session for the Belgian Grand Prix. His impressions were, overall, that the car has been developed and is easier and more pleasant to drive than when he last sampled it in Barcelona a few months ago.
Kovalainen drove Charles Pic's car in today's FP1 session. He finished the session 16th fastest, a whisker ahead of Giedo van der Garde in the other Caterham. Kovalainen commented after Friday's proceedings:
“It felt good to be back in the car and I’m pleased to see how it’s developed since I last drove it in Barcelona. The whole package feels better balanced and generally it’s a good overall improvement behind the wheel. There’s a few things I could tell right away that are better – in general the ride has improved, there’s much less pitching and the front in particular feels stronger."
It wasn't all positive, however. Kovalainen said, "... the braking stability doesn’t feel great today, but that’s something that can be worked on pretty simply in FP2."
Kovalainen was satisfied with his time in the car and said, "Overall I’m pleased I had more time in the car and can continue to help the team progress.”
Caterham are locked in a battle with Marussia over tenth place in the Constructors' Championship. The top ten teams at the end of the season receive prize money, but the 11th-placed team receives nothing, which makes tenth place very important indeed for future development of a Formula One team. Marussia are currently tenth after some impressive early season performances by Jules Bianchi.
The good news for Caterham is both of their cars have been consistently faster than the Marussias for some time, and that trend continued into today's practice sessions, with the Caterhams again quicker than the Marussias. But the bad news is Caterham need a 12th place or better finish to move ahead of Marussia in the Constructors' Championship. In normal conditions, that is not going to happen - the car is simply not quick enough to beat the midfield teams to 12th place.
The Caterham team needs an unusual race, one in which the form book is not useful and anything can happen. They might just get that this weekend, as rain is forecast for tomorrow's qualifying and Sunday's race.