Caterham is almost ready to complete its 2013 driver lineup, new team boss Cyril Abiteboul has revealed.
Having fielded Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov this year, Caterham has already announced that Frenchman Charles Pic will drive one of the green cars next season. Finn Kovalainen’s hopes of staying in F1 are now pinned on Caterham’s plans, but the sponsored drivers Petrov, Dutchman Giedo van der Garde and Bruno Senna are reportedly all also looking to the Tony Fernandes-founded team.
“There are different options,” Abiteboul admitted to F1’s official website.
Russian Petrov’s hopes appeared to get a boost last week, when a delegation for his sponsor Russian Helicopters visited Caterham’s factory.
“One option,” Abiteboul said, “is someone who he (Pic) can learn from and who he can use as his benchmark for what we want from both our drivers.
“Another option, more radical, is to accept the fact that 2013 is a transition year that we use to continue building the team before a period of greater stability in 2014, when a lot of other things in the package will change,” he added. “Both types of candidates are out there, and we are close to making a decision.”
When the mere survival of HRT looked bleak, the Spanish team’s Chinese development driver Ma Qinghua started to look elsewhere. That is the claim of the Diario AS newspaper, reporting that the 24-year-old Shanghai-born driver entered talks with other F1 backmarkers Caterham and Marussia.
Each of those teams are yet to confirm their second race drivers for the 2013 season.
AS said Qinghua’s management, China Sport Management, opened talks with Caterham and Marussia around the time of the recent Austin and Brazil double-header.
The news is a real blow to HRT’s chances of remaining in formula one, as rumours had suggested China Sport Management was involved in talks to rescue the ailing Spanish team.
Giedo van der Garde is waiting to hear if he will be Charles Pic’s teammate at Caterham in 2013.
The Dutch GP2 driver completed the 2012 season as the Tony Fernandes-owned team’s regular Friday and reserve driver, and is reportedly now in the running to replace either Heikki Kovalainen or Vitaly Petrov. But, although earlier tipped to run an all-pay-driver lineup for 2013, Caterham’s financial situation has changed since the Interlagos finale, after Russian Petrov’s eleventh place returned the team to the lucrative tenth spot in the constructors’ championship.
Petrov’s performance may be rewarded with a new deal, or Caterham could use the extra money to keep its highly rated salaried driver, Finn Kovalainen. The other option remains the well-funded Dutchman, van der Garde.
“We had hoped for clarification last week, but Caterham has moved the decision forwards,” the 27-year-old told Dutch magazine Formule 1. “The decision is theirs and we can do nothing but wait and see,” added van der Garde. “If all goes well, we will know in two weeks.”
Caterham have confirmed that they have signed Charles Pic on a multi year contract for the 2013 season onwards.
“It is clear that he is a special talent,” said Caterham’s new team boss Cyril Abiteboul.
At present, it is unclear as to who will be partnering Pic at Caterham next season. Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov currently drive for the team however it is rumoured that Dutchman Giedo van der Garde will be given the drive.
Pic’s replacement at Marussia has yet to be confirmed however the F1 rumour mill strongly favours British driver Max Chilton.
Heikki Kovalainen claims Caterham is planning to use its current chassis as the basis for the 2013 car.
It is expected the salaried Finn will be pushed out of the team for 2013 by ‘pay drivers’ Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde.
Asked by the Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat how he expects Caterham to go next season, Kovalainen said: “It’s hard to say.
“But when the team has decided to continue with the same chassis for the new car, it may not be a good sign,” said the 31-year-old, who as Caterham’s lead driver has failed to score a single point since the team’s inception in 2010.
Caterham’s new boss Cyril Abiteboul has all but confirmed paddock speculation Charles Pic is set to arrive at the team from Marussia for 2013.
And he said that would be part of the Tony Fernandes-owned team’s new “three year plan”.
On the issue of Frenchman Pic joining Caterham, France’s f1i.com quoted Abiteboul as saying: “This is a three year plan that we are working on, and there are still many factors that need to come together so that it is a reality.
“But this project seems interesting for everyone,” said the Frenchman.
It appears that highly rated Finnish driver Heikki Kovalainen is being pushed out by ‘pay drivers’ due to Caterham potentially losing lucrative Concorde Agreement income to Marussia.
Kovalainen admitted on Thursday that Brazil could be his last grand prix.
It is believed that the main contender for the seat alongside Pic next year is the sponsored Dutch driver Giedo van der Garde.
“There is at least one more seat open,” said Kovalainen in Brazil. “It is still possible that I will get it.
“From my experience, I only know that when things drag on for this long, it’s never a good sign,” he admitted.
Giedo van der Garde has played down reports he is set to be imminently unveiled as a Caterham race driver for 2013.
The well-backed Dutchman, who this year contested the GP2 championship for Tony Fernandes’ team, has also been Caterham’s reserve driver in 2012 and has recently been driving the green CT01 in Friday morning practice sessions. Rumours last week, as van der Garde tested the Caterham in Abu Dhabi, suggested the 27-year-old is now on the cusp of securing a full race drive for 2013.
“Discussions are ongoing,” van der Garde is quoted by the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf. “On both sides there is the intention to keep working together, and I hope to have clarity within two to three weeks.”
Because Caterham stands to lose millions in Concorde Agreement earnings due to falling behind Marussia in the constructors’ championship, it is rumoured van der Garde could oust the team’s highly rated paid driver Heikki Kovalainen. And according to speculation, Frenchman Charles Pic is the favourite to replace Vitaly Petrov, whose Russian funding has reportedly dried up.
Caterham on Thursday confirmed reports Cyril Abiteboul has replaced Tony Fernandes as team principal.
Having announced a major new sports car venture with Renault, Malaysian entrepreneur Fernandes this week announced he is stepping down from the top of his F1 team.
We tipped Abiteboul, engine supplier Renault’s former deputy managing director, to replace him.
“He takes over during a season when we have not yet fulfilled our potential, but at a time when we have everything in place to help us do so,” said Fernandes.
At 35, Frenchman Abiteboul is now F1’s youngest team boss.
Caterham’s latest recruit, Cyril Abiteboul, is tipped to succeed founder Tony Fernandes’ as the team’s new principal.
Having announced a major new sports car venture with Renault, Malaysian entrepreneur Fernandes this week confirmed reports he is stepping down as Caterham’s F1 boss.
Initial rumours suggested his successor could be Jean-Francois Caubet, whose last race as engine supplier Renault’s F1 chief was in Abu Dhabi last weekend. But another prominent Renault member also left the French engine supplier recently: Cyril Abiteboul.
Indeed, Renault’s former deputy managing director was in September signed up as Caterham F1’s new chief executive.
Asked recently if Abiteboul will soon be Caterham principal, Fernandes answered: “Not at the moment, no. Eventually, maybe.”
The Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat on Wednesday reported that Abiteboul will indeed take over Fernandes’ role. The report also tipped Caterham to announce Dutchman Giedo van der Garde as part of the team’s 2013 race lineup, amid suggestions the other seat will be filled by the similarly well-backed Frenchman Charles Pic, who would move from Marussia. That would leave the highly rated – but unsponsored – Heikki Kovalainen out in the cold for 2013.
Van der Garde is this week testing the green CT01 in Abu Dhabi, but he will not be reprising his recent Friday driving duties next weekend in Austin.
“It’s a new track and so the race drivers need the maximum time in the car,” he is quoted by De Telegraaf newspaper.
The report said van der Garde will, however, be practicing on the Friday before the 2012 finale, in Brazil.
Caterham and its F1 engine supplier Renault have joined forces to produce road-going sports cars.
At the announcement attended by Caterham team boss Tony Fernandes and Renault chairman Carlos Ghosn in Paris, it was announced that the collaboration will produce “distinctive” cars from the Renault-owned Alpine factory in Dieppe, Normandy.
“The Caterham Group will own (a) 50pc stake in the Automobiles Alpine Renault company, currently 100pc held by Renault,” a media statement said. “I have not felt as excited about a new venture since I launched AirAsia in 2001,” said Malaysian entrepreneur Fernandes.
He added at a press conference: “If you look at Formula One, there’s only Ferrari and McLaren, which are extremely expensive. We’ll produce a car that many more people can afford with F1 technology.”