After Williams removed its controversial solution for the ‘Coanda’-effect exhaust late last week, heads are now turning in Caterham’s direction.
Williams’ move to remove the solution reportedly followed the FIA’s Charlie Whiting telling team designer Mike Coughlan at Jerez that he deemed it illegal. But while Williams’ solution attempted to find a loophole in the regulations, Coughlan said recently he thought Caterham’s similar approach is “clearly not allowed”.
A Caterham spokesman said: “We are continuing to evaluate a range of options at the pre-season tests as per our normal programme.”
But the team’s new Dutch racer Giedo van der Garde is not so sure that means Caterham will remove the solution.
“I am told that it is legal, so I am not worried,” he is quoted by the Dutch magazine Formule1. “I expect to find the same exhaust on the car in Barcelona.”
The third and final four-day pre-season test begins on Thursday.
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’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.