Green in 2014

 


The price for finishing 11th would appear to be the loss of your race seat. Both Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic are not only out at Caterham, but out of a first team seat all together, as the pair now both find themselves as reserve drivers at Sauber and Lotus respectively.

In a year where the Leafield based outfit finished in their lowest position since entering the sport, a complete change in driver line-up may not surprise many, particularly as neither of the aforementioned drivers made a particularly strong claim to remain in the sport long term - ala Jules Bianchi in the similarly equipped Marussia. That isn't to say they were poor, far from it. Giedo van der Garde in particular showed flashes of adaptability and quick thinking - Monaco and Spa spring to the fore.

It is a shame to see the popular Dutchman out a race seat, particularly as he brought such character and life to a paddock littered with bland, sponsor-pleasing suits. But in a sport that moves faster than most, we must also move on. New drivers, returning drivers, but what of the end result? It's a huge year for Caterham, with owner Tony Fernandes threatening to leave the sport if results do not improve.

The combination of scoring 0 points in four years and now having seemingly fallen behind nearest rivals for Marussia; the target for the green team is simple - progress, or leave. They've tried to do things in the right way since joining the sport as one of three new teams in 2010 - bringing in experienced F1 people, drivers who've won races, promising rookies, junior teams and constantly improving facilities. Yet for some reason it's just not clicked. Frustrating for all, I'm sure.

An all new exciting and dynamic driver line up will certainly get people talking and rejuvenated ahead of what could be Caterham's best chance yet of making strides towards the midfield. As previously mentioned, with Giedo out of a drive the sport loses a real character, but his replacement - the hugely popular Kamui Kobayashi - will see arguably one of motorsports most exhilarating and eye-catching drivers return to grace the series he should never have left.

Joining Kamui at Caterham will be Swede Marcus Ericsson, progressing from GP2 after four years in the sport. The 23-year-old failed to score a point in the opening nine races of the 2013 campaign (although that doesn't quite tell the complete story of his actual speed), yet recovered to finish 6th in the final standings and take victory in the feature race in Germany along the way.

The decision to promote a driver with just two GP2 victories in four years may surprise some may surprise some; particularly as no other front runner in 2013 was able to secure a race seat in the top class. But should it surprise us too much? As I said, his results didn't always show his true pace, and as we've seen with other drivers in the past - notably his new team Kobayashi - that a relative lack of success in GP2 does not automatically denote how you'll perform in an F1 car. Kobayashi had just one GP2 victory to his name, along with just a handful of other points scoring finishes before Toyota took a gamble on him at the end of the 2009 season.

With Renault's well publicised issues over the first two tests, it may prove to be a tough start to the season for Caterham. The aim for the whole season though has to scoring that first point. Zero points scored in 77 races is - in an era where almost half the field is set to score points at each round - is simply not good enough. Big strides forwards are needed before people understandably lose patience and maybe more importantly, money.

With such drastic changes to the regulations and feel of the sport, 2014 is set to present the best chance yet for teams to alter the running order. The new cars appear to be forcing everyone to rethink and tweak their driving style, so a lack of experience or recent running in cars of this type may not be as crucial as it has been in previous years.

With reliability also set to be a big factor this season, especially early on, teams likely to be towards the rear of the field know that chances for points will be there. But it's about taking those chances, being on track at the right times and maximising everything that you have and that is presented to you. Can Caterham do this? I sincerely hope so, for everyone involved right from the bottom to the top. 2014 is a big year for all, but maybe none more so than the green team?

Paul Godley 23/02/2014

Image source (and all image rights): Caterham leaving the pits - Fox Sports/Adam Cooper

Other sources - Autosport, YouTube user BESTLEVAP

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