Caterham play the long game and drop to last

2013 F1 season review

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Caterham began 2013 with a new driver line-up, a refreshed paint scheme – and not very much else.

The looming change in engine regulations for 2014 meant Formula One’s smallest teams had to plan their budgets for 2013 accordingly, as team principal Cyril Abiteboul explained during the season. “Obviously it’s something we anticipated and that has even affected our strategy of spend for this year,” he explained.

“We knew that there would be so much to invest both from a factory perspective in terms of engine costs, contractual costs but also in terms of car build, so that we have a cash flow that is structured in order to absorb all of that.”

Caterham team stats 2013

Best race result (number)14 (3)
Best grid position (number) 14 (1)
Non-finishes (mechanical/other) 8 (5/3)
Laps completed (% of total) 1,900 (83.7%)
Laps led (% of total) 0 (0%)
Championship position (2012)11 (10)
Championship points (2012)0 (0)
Pit stop performance ranking11

Given that, it was no surprise the team began the season with a CT03 chassis which was visibly very similar to its predecessor. They also opted for an all-new and distinctly more lightweight driver pairing.

Charles Pic, who’d had a reasonable debut season for Marussia, was snapped up at the end of 2012. Then on the eve of the new season Caterham confirmed team stalwart Heikki Kovalainen had been bumped from the driver line-up in favour of 2008 Formula Renault 3.5 champion Giedo van der Garde.

But it said a lot that Kovalainen was retained by the team and recalled several times during the season to drive the car in practice sessions and help point their inexperienced driver line-up in the right direction.

The team began the season on the back foot. Marussi’a MR02 was quicker out-of-the-box than Caterham’s challenger, and the red-and-black cars held the upper hand in the opening races. That proved decisive in the season-long contest between the two.

With no points on offer below tenth place the team which achieved the best individual result during the season was always likely to come out on top. And so it proved – Jules Bianchi’s 13th place in Malaysia (with both Caterhams behind him) settled it.

It could very easily have been different. Van der Garde took 14th in Hungary and Pic did likewise in Korea – one more retirement in front of them would have seen them beat Marussia.

But Caterham’s decision to play the long game may yet reap rewards if the decision to focus on their 2014 challenger pays off. That is certainly what Abiteboul is hoping for. “We didn’t develop much the car this season,” he said. “Next season will be a totally different ball game.”

Caterham drivers 2013 race results

Charles Pic161416171718151715171914181920
Giedo van der Garde181518211518181416181615181918

Caterham’s 2013 season in pictures

2013 F1 season review

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Image © Caterham/LAT

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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39 comments on “Caterham play the long game and drop to last”

  1. Is this the first of a series of eleven articles, each one dedicated to one team? I love this. Just one question… what’s the “Championship position (2012) 11 (10)” stat?

    1. 11th this year, 10th last year

    2. @awg22

      Is this the first of a series of eleven articles, each one dedicated to one team?

      Yep, it’s a normal feature of the season review. Glad you like it!

  2. It’s surprising how the graph shows so apparently VDG surpassing PIC during the season after starting behind.

    1. The graph is a little tricky to read because it does not account for DNF.

      1. I agree but vdGarde impressed me this year, I thought he was a joke after Australian qualifying but he made me change my opinion :-)

    2. Van Der garde certainly did outperform pic over the year, and I think he did improve the most of all the rookies. Whether that makes up for the appalling errors under blue flags is another matter.

  3. what if they can’t even score a point (again) next year? I hope not, really wish that backmarkers at least capable of running against the midfielders.

    1. I certainly don’t believe in either Caterham or Marussia. The bulk of their disadvantage cannot be linked to a weak power-train as it happened often for Minardi and going further back Arrows Tyrell and some others, unfortunately they are technologically in the stone age, their main issue must be in composite technology, composites have evolved so much in the past 5 years it must be very hard to bridge that technological gap.

      1. I think the major difference is the high reliability. The minnows of old only scored in high attrition races or extreme weather races (which now are run in safety car conditions or red flagged)

        These 2 teams are closer to the pace than minardi ever were.

      2. I sincerely trust that as Cosworth has now had their final F1 race, all their detractors who sneered at the power plant as the reason for Caterham’s previous poor performances, now apologise and admit that not even the mighty championship winning Renault made a scrap of difference in the end, beaten, as it was by that “slow pig of a Cosworth” in fact, the reverse was true: Caterham were never good enough to exploit the full potential of the excellent Cosworth F1 engine. I am neither affiliated or associated with Cosworth in any way, but feel strongly that the product was badly maligned by those with no knowledge or understanding of cutting edge automotive engineering.

        1. That’s the problem – all of the problems with back-markers teams are often blown out of proportion by words written by people fundamentally out-of-the-know.

  4. I hope next years rules make the racing closer and with more driver errors. And a few wet races. I’m curious how the little teams will fare then.

  5. I agree with what was talked about during Sky’s practice coverage at Brazil, Points should go down to last place so that the final championship standings don’t hinge on 1 result.

    We see a lot over the years that amongst the non-points scorers the final standings are often decided by one of the crazy races where DNF’s see one of the drivers finish just outside the points putting them ahead in the championship, Even if the competition is faster over the rest of the year.

    With prize money on the line even for the lower constructors standings, The results should be decided by the season consistency & not just who happens o get a sole 12th place finish in one of those odd races where there’s a lot of DNF’s.

    1. I don’t think even ‘Points’ are needed.
      It would be nice to keep that ‘First Point’ aspiration alive.

      On the other hand, the positions for ‘Zero Point teams’ should consider average results, rather than best results.

    2. Giving everyone points would mean driver errors have even less consequence + mechanical failures would hurt much much more than driver errors/penalties which isn’t fair.

    3. I agree with what was talked about during Sky’s practice coverage at Brazil, Points should go down to last place so that the final championship standings don’t hinge on 1 result.

      Don’t see why. If two teams manage the same number of points, the one with the better individual result gets ahead. Same with drivers.

      Minardi scored 1 5th place, which was better than 2 6th places for Toyota in 2002, and they kept them behind. So why not? they got further in a race than Toyota…

      1. That’s fair enough but if neither of them are good enough to score any then the entire championship battle between them relies on a single result. It isn’t the same as battling and ending up on the same total.

        If you take the season on a whole, Caterham were much better than Marussia, but it was only on merit of a single race at the start of the year which saw them lose the entire battle.

        1. Were they really that much better?

    4. Totally agree AlanBoyo. I really don’t see how it is considered fair that one team could have (for example) a single 11th placed finish with 18 DNFs and be considered better than a team which finishes 12th 19 times.

      There should be some form of ‘secondary points’ for teams which don’t score an actual point so there is some allowance for consistency and one freak result is less likely to impact the championship. This could follow the top ten system – 25,18,15 etc from 11th down, or maybe a different system for points down to 15th or 16th place, i don’t really care i’m just surprised with big money up for grabs that the current system is deemed suitable.

      p.s in an ideal world all the teams would score at some stage and make this a non-issue, but history has proven this is rarely the case.

      1. Bernie only wants to share the loot with 10 teams, if they scored points he would have to share some of his money with them.

  6. Stupid question, and I am sure this has been asked before, but why does the FIA not distribute funds to all participants?

    I know they want to weed out poor performing teams, but who wants to watch a grid of 4 teams (I am exaggerating)?
    Perhaps have an arrangement with teams that they receive some funding with every young driver they allow at a practise session (giving them some track time experience) or some other way for teams to gain funding.
    Maybe I just don’t understand the business model well enough.

    1. It’s Bernie, not FIA that distributes a little money.

      1. 63% of the operating profit on a turnover of £1.5 billion.

  7. Well regulation changes are probably Caterham and Marussia only hope to step ahead and get really close to the midfield. If they decided to make 2013 a stand by year with eyes pointing 2014, then kudos. Honda did the same in 2008 and it paid off.

    Certainly, Caterham won’t be championship contenders, but if they focused on 2014 very early, they could get in the mix of another team other than Marussia. Which would be nice.

  8. All Marussia or Caterham need to do next year to score points is make a reliable car because there will be many retirements.

    1. Sadly it relies largely on the entire engine itself, which will be the same for them too :(

      1. Not really, the new aero package, different wings and other packaging requirements will likely mean we won’t just see pure engine failures.

        Heat management alone will be interesting – we could be seeing burnt carbon fibre.

    2. I doubt that.

  9. Such a shame they are not competitive. Their car is one of the best looking if you ask me.

  10. Caterham have been a massive disappointment compared to the other new teams. Yes they’ve finished ahead of them the majority of times but really with the resource advantage they’ve enjoyed over Marrussia and formerly HRT they should have pulled well clear of them and caught the midfield by now. Instead Marussia have kept up with them in the development pace with nowhere near the resources Caterham have enjoyed.

      1. Yes. Caterham has a larger budget then Marrussia. Don’t know the exact number, but considering how Marrussia has almost no sponsors, are running a fairly underdeveloped Cosworth engine and Caterham’s connections with Renault it shouldn’t be this close.

  11. Caterham and Gascoigne have been promising much for a longtime and have delivered NOTHING

    1. Mike is not involved with the f1 operation at all anymore. He spent the last few weeks of the season on a boat.

  12. I really hope the gamble they took this year will make them faster next year. The team has good people in it, and has even used the same tub for the 2012 and 2013 cars to save money for next year.

  13. It is weird that a team that has Airbus and General Eletric as sponsor doesnt have a middle grid car… whats the problem, car or drivers?

    1. Money.
      Big names, but cheap sponsors.

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