It’s unusual for racing cars to have gender. If pushed, a driver might describe his car as female. Sebastian Vettel would certainly have done that in previous seasons – he named one of his cars Kinky Kylie – but this year’s F1 cars look… let’s say… male. Caterham’s CT05 embodies this “maleness” to a greater degree than most.
The rules governing the height of the nose for this year’s cars have resulted in some unusual-looking solutions being produced by the various teams. The front of Ferrari’s F14 T, for example, looks like a vacuum cleaner. Mercedes have produced the most “normal” looking F1 car, while Red Bull have produced a car that looks quite good until the small bulge at the end of the nose is noticed.
McLaren, Toro Rosso, Sauber, Williams and Force India have all come out with cars that have some variation on a thin extension of the nose that looks remarkably phallic. Some of them have attempted to hide the fact that their nose looks a bit strange by employing creative paint-jobs. Others have tried to minimise the size of the protrusion and, at least in the case of Williams, succeeded to an extent.
But Caterham have made no attempt either to limit the size of their “ant-eater” nose, as it is diplomatically known, or to disguise it with clever paint-work. Instead, they’ve let it all hang out. It’s so striking a feature that there has been almost no comment on the rest of the car thus far. The nose is the only talking point.
On first viewing, it appears that the rest of the car looks much as expected. The rear-exiting exhaust, larger side-pods, and missing rear beam wing are all visible from a fairly cursory glance at the car. Caterham have included what became known as a “monkey seat” last season in the rear-wing centre upright. This is a small wing just above the exhaust of this year’s car. It is permitted by the regulations, but it remains to be seen to what extent it will be used by the teams this season.
The other noticeable change is in the livery. Last year, the rear of the engine cover was yellow, while the rest of the car was its now typical green. But for this season it seems the yellow is gone. The car is all green, at least at this stage of the season. Perhaps the livery will be developed at a later stage.
Heikki Kovalainen will fill in for fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen at Lotus for the final two races of 2013, the team confirmed today in a statement on the Lotus F1 Team website.
Kovalainen has been released from his contract with Caterham for the remainder of the season so that he can compete for Lotus. He had been assisting with the development of this year’s Caterham car by taking part in Friday practice sessions for the team.
When Raikkonen announced last week that he would not be available for the final two races of the season, Lotus had to scramble to find the most competitive driver possible to fill Raikkonen’s vacant seat. In particular, Lotus needed a driver who could help them in their quest to take second place in the Constructors’ Championship.
Among the drivers approached were Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg, who turned down the offer so that he could see out his season with Sauber, and retired seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher, who was disinclined to make a second comeback to the sport he dominated so thoroughly a decade ago.
Kovalainen is an experienced and highly rated driver, which explains his appeal for Lotus. They approached Kovalainen and Caterham and it was arranged that Kovalainen would be able to return to the grid with Lotus this weekend in Austin, Texas.
Lotus team principal Eric Boullier explained the decision to put Kovalainen in Raikkonen’s car:
“Obviously we had to move quickly following the news of Kimi’s non-participation in the final two races of this season, and we found ourselves facing a difficult decision in terms of who should take the wheel in Austin and São Paulo. On the one hand we had our reserve driver Davide Valsecchi – who is a talented young driver that has shown a great deal of promise – and on the other we had the opportunity to bring in a seasoned Formula 1 competitor in Heikki.
“Whilst we have every faith in Davide’s abilities, we are obviously involved in a tight Constructors’ Championship battle, so it was decided that the experience Heikki could bring to the team would be invaluable as we aim to finish the year in the best position possible. We must thank Tony Fernandes and Caterham F1 Team for their professional conduct in allowing Heikki to join us for the final races of this season.”
Kovalainen expressed his enthusiasm for the task he faces in the next two weeks:
“It is a fantastic opportunity for me to join Lotus F1 Team for the final two races of 2013. We’ve seen this year that the E21 is a car which can win races and finish on the podium, so I will be pushing hard for the best results possible. Jumping into a car so late in the year when you have not been competing in the races all season will be a challenge, but I know the team at Enstone well so I have no concerns about getting up to speed. This is a great opportunity for me, so I would like to thank Tony Fernandes and Caterham F1 Team for allowing me to take advantage of it.”
To date, Kovalainen has competed in 110 Grands Prix and has scored one victory, four podiums and one pole position. He will be in a competitive car again this weekend for the first time since he left McLaren at the end of 2009 and will be looking to make the most of the opportunity to score points again in Formula One.
Caterham are perhaps best known, outside of Formula One, for their Caterham Seven car, which is based on the legendary Lotus Seven. In recent years, the manufacturer has been working hard to develop its road-going offerings, placing an emphasis on technology transfer from the Formula One team to the road. The latest result of this push forward is the Caterham AeroSeven concept.
The Seven is a very much a drivers’s car. With a reputation for superb handling, it’s been a classic for decades. The design is iconic, and quite distinctive. In principle it’s quite simple: a lightweight chassis with a front-mounted engine that drives the rear wheels. And those elements have remained for the AeroSeven.
Most obviously, the AeroSeven differs from the Seven in terms of aerodynamics and materials. The body is made of carbon-fibre which keeps the weight down and strength up. The rear of the AeroSeven is dominated by an F1-style diffuser that generates rear downforce. A front splitter does its bit for aerodynamics at the other end of the car. As for the rest of the bodywork, it is carefully sculpted to optimise the airflow over the surface of the car.
In terms of visual differences to the established Seven, the AeroSeven hides its front suspension almost completely, whereas the Seven bares it for all to see. The benefits of covering the suspension and hiding the front wheels a bit more thoroughly are entirely aerodynamic, as the motion of the front tyres creates a great deal of turbulence and drag. The result of these changes is a much wider and more aggressive looking front end that is quite visually appealing.
Caterham have clearly been at pains to emphasise the Formula One connection. The car is proudly painted in Caterham green as used on the F1 cars. The wheels feature striking yellow paint on the outside of the rim, which is reminiscent of wheels used by the F1 team in the last few seasons, although the current Caterham F1 car has not retained that visual feature.
The AeroSeven concept is powered by the same 237bhp (177kW) Ford Duratec engine developed by Caterham Technology & Innovation that features in the recently launched Caterham Seven 485. Power is transferred to the rear wheels via a six speed manual gearbox. In terms of performance, Caterham claims a 0-100km/h sprint time of less than 4 seconds.
For the first time on any of its cars, Caterham have equipped the AeroSeven concept car with traction control and launch control. And here is perhaps the only area where the concept could be criticised. Purists will not like the addition of traction control, which limits power to the rear wheels in the case of reduced traction and consequent wheelspin. Traction control is considered to take some control away from the driver, which could be frowned upon in some quarters.
But in terms of technological development, it only makes sense to add electronic aids to Caterham’s road and track cars. It’s a demonstration of the company’s technological prowess and will widen the potential audience for the car. There will also doubtless be settings that reduce the role of traction control on the car for those who wish to test their skills without it.
Other high-tech features on the AeroSeven include “an exclusive F1-style steering wheel with driver-focused functionality, and an intuitive fully active Graphical Display Unit (GDU),” according to Caterham’s press release.
The concept car has been launched at the Singapore Grand Prix that is taking place this weekend. The production AeroSeven is expected in the third quarter of 2014. Final specifications and options for the production version are still under consideration by Caterham and will be revealed closer to the production launch.
Caterham’s driver line-up has been completed after the team announced on Friday that Giedo van der Garde will partner Charles Pic in 2013. Van der Garde was the team’s test driver in 2012 while he raced in GP2, and has now been promoted into a full-time F1 race seat.
The choice of drivers for 2013 shows a dramatic change in strategy for the Caterham team. In 2012, the extremely experienced Finn Heikki Kovalainen led the team and was partnered by Russian Vitaly Petrov, who had two seasons under his belt before arriving at Caterham. For 2013, Pic is the senior driver, but he only driven in F1 for a single season at Marussia, and Van der Garde is a rookie.
The reasons for the change in driver selection policy are clear – the team wants to move forward technically, and to do that it needs more money. Kovalainen was paid a salary last year, while Petrov brought sponsorship to the team. This year, both drivers bring funding to the team. Nonetheless, it is clear that both Pic and Van der Garde are capable behind the wheel. Pic had an impressive debut season, challenging his experienced Marussia team-mate Timo Glock throughout 2012. Van der Garde scored two wins and six podiums on the way to sixth in the 2012 GP2 championship.
Team principal Cyril Abiteboul said of the appointment, “This is the next natural step for Giedo with our team. We continue to grow as a team and we are committed to giving young talent across the motorsport industry the chance to grow with us and this is Giedo’s opportunity to show he deserves his place at the very highest level of global motorsport. He and Charles [Pic] have been team-mates before so he is an excellent choice to partner Charles in what is going to be another very interesting season, and we are all looking forward to seeing Giedo continue to progress as he takes on the ultimate challenge of F1.”
Giedo van der Garde expressed his eagerness to get started in 2013: “I know I am ready to take the step up to F1 and all the work I have done throughout my career, and particularly in the last year with this team, has brought me to my ultimate goal. Throughout 2012 I was able to fully integrate myself into the team, both through the FP1 sessions I ran at a number of tracks that were then new to me, and as Reserve Driver, fully embedded with the team throughout the season.
“Now I can continue to learn at the highest level of motorsport and show that I am ready for F1. I cannot wait to start work.”
The new Caterham F1 car – the CT03 – will be launched at the track in Jerez, Spain on Tuesday 5 February before hitting the track for the start of testing.