When Caterham confirmed its drivers for the 2014 Formula One season this morning, it also revealed a slight rebrand that has seen the team alter its traditional British racing green livery. Instead, a new mint green and white colour scheme has been put in place. Very fresh indeed.
That’s what 2014 is all about for Caterham. Fresh starts. A fresh outlook.
2013 was by no means a bad year for the Leafield-based outfit. The line-up of Charles Pic – who was coming off of the back of a rather impressive debut year with Marussia – and Giedo van der Garde appeared to mix potential and pace with financial muscle. Marussia on the other hand appeared to be in disarray as Luis Razia was-then-wasn’t driving for them, forcing the last minute introduction of Jules Bianchi. Lacking a commercial deal with the sport, Marussia appeared to be destined for bottom spot once again.
However, the die was cast after just two rounds of the season. By finishing in thirteenth place in Malaysia, Bianchi (unbeknownst to everyone at the time) had already done enough to beat Caterham who, having been the quicker team for sixteen of the nineteen rounds of the season, most probably felt a bit hard done by.
Despite this rather disheartening loss, it didn’t seem to warrant such a seismic overhaul as we have seen. Charles Pic’s exit was by no means a surprise given his more isolated and ‘independent’ attitude. During the press conference for the Belgian Grand Prix, a French journalist asked five of the drivers whether or not they were ready to be a father following the birth of Romain Grosjean’s son, Sacha. The other drivers joked, with Giedo van der Garde poking fun at Sebastian Vettel’s new hair-do for the weekend, and the press room was in hysterics (to the bemusement of some grumpy fans). But Charles? “For myself at the moment I’m focusing on racing and my season and after that we will see.” There’s a time and a place for such basic PR answers…
Giedo’s dropping is a bit more disheartening. By the end of the season, he was soundly outclassing Pic across the course of a race weekend, as well as bringing a sense of fun to the paddock with an infectious smile. He made two forays into Q2 for Caterham in Monaco and Belgium, with the latter seeing him finish an incredible P3 in Q1 thanks to an inspired tyre choice. Frankly, he did little wrong.
So in come Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson. Kobayashi, with three full years of F1 experience under his belt, is a good asset for the team to claim. Not only has he proven himself to be quick (sometimes too quick) and capable, but he also brings in a sizeable fan base. One would expect the Suzuka grandstands to be bathing in green in October.
Further to that, Kobayashi does bring in some money. In Formula One, it’s a very good thing to have. Although an exact figure is unknown, it is sizeable enough to have secured him the seat, with some of it coming from donations made by fans back in 2012. Team principal Cyril Abiteboul said a few months ago that drivers should be expected to bring a budget with them for a seat – much to Heikki Kovalainen’s dismay – and this has proven to be correct in the signings made.
Ericsson’s promotion to a race seat is an odd one. The young Swede has raced in GP2 for four years and built up a cult following of Swedish fans who travel all over Europe to watch him race; their support was rewarded with a win at the Nurburgring last July. However, in a straight fight between himself and Giedo van der Garde, it’s hard to deny the Dutchman victory.
Financial matters aside though, the introduction of two completely new drivers with no association with the Leafield operation is part of what Caterham is trying to do in 2014. A fresh start. When Tony Fernandes came into the sport in 2010, he appeared to expect to immediately be on the pace and in the midfield, at the very least. However, he has learned the hard way that Formula One isn’t that simple. What the new regulations for 2014 does allow for though is a reshuffle and reset. The team, for the first time, is starting from the same spot as everyone else for a new season. Furthermore, the team will be using a 60% scale wind tunnel for the first time. It’s steps like this that all go in the right direction.
Although the new livery on the Caterham CT-04 (as one would presume it will be christened) is unlikely to be a massive change from last year’s car, let’s expect a great deal more mint and white. It’s time for a fresh start for everyone at Leafield, and, one would like to think, some points in 2014.
Images courtesy of Caterham F1 Team.