Heikki Kovalainen returned to the Formula 1 paddock in Bahrain to take up a new role with former team Caterham. The experience of the Finn was desperately needed to help develop their ailing CT03 which is currently trailing Marussia but over half a second.
Kovalainen ran in the car for the first time in Free Practice One for the Bahrain Grand Prix, taking over driving duties from Giedo van der Garde for one session only.
The 31-year-old started his reserve driver duties by testing the CT03, a car vastly similar to the one he raced in 2012. However he cited a number of problems for the teams lack of pace.
Describing his initial thoughts after his Free Practice run to Autosport, he said ”
“Straight away, the feeling with the car was that there isn’t any margin for error through a corner when you lean on it – it’s on a knife edge,”
“It’s more unbalanced than I experienced last year and it’s more difficult to drive, more inconsistent.”
“To a certain extent, it is not a surprise because of the way that the car has been modified in terms of ride height and in terms of some stiffness.”
He ended up six tenths slower in comparison to race driver Pic in the session but he was running the teams Chinese Grand Prix specification. Charles Pic tested some minor upgrades but the team will introduce more significant changes when Formula 1 moves to Europe for the Spanish Grand Prix in May.
Kovalainen said that set-up changes could help to bring the team closer to Marussia, but the main problem with the car is at the rear.
“Part of it is solvable with set-up but when we improve the car and put upgrades on, the one area that we need to improve is the back end,” said Kovalainen after being asked whether set-up could help to make the car easier to drive.
“It needs to be stronger. We are not the only ones and the tyres are part of that but it could be improved.
“It would be interesting to understand why some cars have better balance than other cars.
“It’s not just the downforce, it could be on the mechanical side as well.”
K0valainen’s first experience in the car has highlighted the main area’s for Caterham to work on and his feedback in Spain will be vital to set them in the right direction. However the Finn has provided the Leafield based team with a long list of things to work on and they certainly have a long way to go before they challenge Marussia for 10th in the constructors.
Image courtesy of Caterham F1 Team, header courtesy of Octane Photographic