Tony Fernandes has given a strident defence of his Formula oOne team, Caterham.
The former Team Lotus outfit, headed by the cheery Malaysian entrepreneur Fernandes, entered its third season with high hopes it was set to join the midfield mix. Instead, the green cars – whilst still the cream of the backmarker group – are still better only than fellow stragglers Marussia and HRT.
The Finnish broadcaster MTV3’s well-known analyst Mika Salo has advised lead driver Heikki Kovalainen to therefore quit Caterham at the end of 2012.
“Something has been wrong with the car,” Kovalainen is quoted as saying by Turun Sanomat newspaper this week. “We need to see what is not right.”
Fernandes, meanwhile, is looking fervently on the bright side, insisting Caterham has done markedly better than F1’s other 2010 start-ups.
“We are competitive,” he told the Sun, reminding that Caterham was the last 2010 team given its official entry by the FIA a few years ago.
“We’ve blown away Marussia and HRT when in actual fact they have been there six months longer,” insisted Fernandes.
“We are half a second away from the established midfield … you must remember that this team is only two years old.
“When I started, we were nine seconds away from the front. Last year we were about four seconds away from Red Bull.
“This year, on certain laps, we lapped at the same pace as them. So I am very happy and I am strengthening the team all the time,” he added.
But one of Caterham’s direct rivals, HRT, is looking to make a major step forwards this weekend in China, having struggled recently in the wake of team supremo Colin Kolles’ departure.
“We come into this grand prix having had much more time to prepare the cars,” Pedro de la Rosa is quoted by the Spanish news agency EFE.
“We will bring small improvements to China but what we really need is the cars back in Europe and then the team can concentrate at the (new headquarters) Caja Magica.
“Step by step we will improve,” said the Spanish driver.