Charles Pic has agreed to drive for Caterham from 2013 on a “multi-year contract”, the team announced yesterday.
Frenchman Pic is in only his first season of Formula One, having joined Marussia to partner Timo Glock for 2012. Pic has compared well to his much more experienced team-mate, notably out-qualifying Glock by half a second at the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona.
Caterham, previously known as Lotus Racing and then Team Lotus, has easily been the most impressive of the three “new” teams since appearing in 2010. Part of the team’s success is due to prize money received from finishing 10th in the Constructors’ Championship in 2010 and 2011. The bottom two teams receive no prize money, which is a significant disadvantage and has hurt Marussia and HRT’s progress.
This season, however, Marussia look set to take that coveted 10th spot, and thereby receive the prize money that was expected to go to Caterham. Timo Glock finished an unlikely 12th in Singapore, which puts his Marussia team ahead of Caterham in the Constructors’ Championship. Nonetheless, Caterham are still considered the strongest of the three bottom teams.
2012 has easily been Marussia’s most competitive season to date. With extra, perhaps unexpected, funding for 2013, the team is likely to move forward further. If Caterham are to continue their run of progress, they will need to find an alternative source of funding – read sponsorship – to fill the gap left by the Formula One prize-money. Could Pic be that alternative source of funding?
There is no doubt that Pic has talent. He has shown it on the race track throughout the season. He also brings crucial sponsorship to a struggling team. Whether for reasons of talent or finance, he has been offered an opportunity to move to a more competitive team, and he has seized it with both hands. Next season will show more of what he can do, particularly as he now has a full season of Formula One racing under his belt. The only question now concerns the identity of his team-mate. Kovalainen and Petrov are the team’s current drivers, but neither has been confirmed for next season.
This is what Caterham and Pic had to say regarding their new contract:
Cyril Abiteboul, Team Principal of Caterham F1 Team:
“We are thrilled that Charles has decided to join us for his second season in F1 and beyond. We are all looking forward to working with a young driver who has clearly shown in his first season in F1 that he has the pace, racecraft and demeanour to help us achieve our goals.
“Throughout the 2012 season we have been monitoring the progress that Charles has made, challenging us on several occasions in qualifying, and it is clear that he is a special talent. As the year has progressed he has performed extremely well against a very experienced teammate and we are looking forward to seeing him develop further within the environment we will provide in 2013 and beyond.
“We will continue growing together, and the energy and image he will bring to our team and his partners will be a very positive influence on the seasons that lie ahead. Being able to make this announcement before the end of the current season gives us the chance now to allow Charles and the team to prepare fully for the 2013 season and quickly learn how to maximise the performance benefits of the Renault Sport F1 and Red Bull Technology powertrain that will be new to him.”
“I am very proud to be able to confirm that I am joining Caterham F1 Team next year and I’m looking forward to many seasons of successful racing co-operation. I’m enthusiastic to have the opportunity to continue to grow in a team that has a technical relationship with a number of French global companies, including Renault and Total, plus an official partnership with EADS. It is clear that the team has great ambitions for the future: the investments already made and the decisions taken in the last few months show how committed the shareholders are to succeed and demonstrates their willingness to keep going forward.
“The prospect of the automotive industry project nurtured by Caterham Group to produce sports road cars in conjunction with Renault is another reason for my decision to join the team. I would like to thank Tony Fernandes and Kamarudin Meranun for the roles they have played in helping make this dream come true.
“I am very excited about starting my second year in F1 with a team that has so much potential. Caterham F1 Team has everything in place to help it move into a position to fight with a number of teams ahead. I know how determined the team is to keep progressing and I am looking forward to playing my part in helping them move up the grid.”
The current Formula One season has seen grid penalties handed out for all sorts of reasons, from gearbox changes to causing collisions to impeding drivers during qualifying. At this weekend’s Korean Grand Prix, Marussia’s Charles Pic becomes the first driver to receive a grid penalty for an engine change.
Each driver is permitted to use eight engines per season, and may choose freely when to use each available engine. For every additional engine used, however, the driver will incur a ten-place grid penalty for the race at which it is first used. Pic will use his ninth Cosworth engine of the season on Sunday, and therefore receives the prescribed penalty.
For a front-runner, a ten-place penalty would be extremely damaging. For Charles Pic, however, the penalty will have very little impact. A qualifying position of 14th or lower will result in the Frenchman starting last on the grid. Considering that his best qualifying result of the year so far is 19th, Pic’s only task in qualifying is to be within 107% of the fastest time in Q1, which should not be a problem even on the prime tyres – on option tyres in Q1 for last week’s Japanese Grand Prix, Pic was three seconds quicker than the 107% time. He can therefore save an additional set of supersoft tyres for the race.
Despite the lack of impact on Charles Pic’s weekend, penalties for engine changes are likely to become topical in the next few weeks, particularly among the front-running teams where grid position could have a material effect on the outcome of the championship. Fernando Alonso or Sebastian Vettel would be very unhappy to have an extra ten cars to pass at the start of a race.
Rain can play havoc with the time-sheets, and today was no exception. Free Practice 2 was so wet that only 10 drivers set laptimes, and all of those laps were finished after the chequered flag fell. When the spray settled, Marussia’s Charles Pic emerged quickest.
Practice times are normally difficult to interpret, as the top teams often do not reveal their true pace until qualifying. Today’s laptimes are, as a result of the weather, practically meaningless. Marussia certainly do not have the fastest car. Pic’s time reveals nothing at all about the pace of the Marussia, although he will no doubt appreciate (and probably chuckle at) having his name at the top of the time-sheets.
The rain effectively made today’s running useless for all of the teams. No useful dry setup work could be done in the difficult conditions, and that includes testing of new parts. Lotus in particular will be frustrated by the lack of dry running, as they had intended to run their new “double” DRS device this weekend, but have had to abandon that plan due to a lack of calibration time.
Only one practice session remains before qualifying, which means that tomorrow morning should see a very crowded track as all of the teams and drivers attempt to cram 2 days work into the one hour session that is FP3. Ideally, that should mean a very close qualifying session, weather permitting.
In recent years, Formula One teams have conducted a test in Abu Dhabi at the end of the season for their young stars. It is a rare chance to gain experience in a Formula One car while still climbing the racing ladder. This year, the Young Driver Test is split in two – at Silverstone this week, and then at Abu Dhabi as usual at the end of the year.
This week’s test takes place on Thursday 12 and Friday 13 July at the home of British motorsport, just a few days after the British Grand Prix. Only three teams are taking part – Williams, Marussia and HRT. The other nine teams will test in Abu Dhabi.
This is the only opportunity available to the teams to test on track for the rest of this season, which raises the question of why so few teams have chosen to take part. It’s not only about testing the young drivers. There is valuable data to collect from running the cars, perhaps with new parts that could find their way onto the cars for later races. Yet most of the teams have chosen not to run this week, which makes very little sense from a car development point of view.
Williams are testing their reserve driver, Valtteri Bottas, who has been taking part in some of the Friday practice sessions during the season. Bottas is the reigning GP3 champion, and his experience in the FW34 should make this a productive test both for him and the Williams team.
HRT will be giving Chinese driver Ma Qing Hua his first taste of a Formula 1 car today and tomorrow. The 24-year old from Shanghai won the 2011 Chinese Touring Car Championship and joined HRT’s development programme in April of this year. After failing to qualify for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix, the team has made steady progress and is now able to consistently compete with Marussia on the track. This test will be crucial to HRT continuing to move forward.
The Marussia F1 team is still reeling from Maria De Villota’s horrific testing accident last Tuesday. She had been lined up to drive at the Young Driver Test, but the team has had to make other plans after the crash. Marussia will be running their GP2 drivers, Max Chilton and Rio Haryanto, each of whom has tested an F1 car once before. The two drivers will each have one day in the car.
Marussia F1 team have released the following update on their injured test driver Maria De Villota:
It is now eight days since Maria De Villota’s accident at Duxford Airfield in her debut test for the Team.
Despite severe injuries, Maria’s recovery during that time has been remarkable.
Following two successful surgical procedures in the days following the accident, last Saturday the medical team at Addenbrooke’s Hospital began to gradually reduce the level of Maria’s sedation. By Sunday morning, Maria was awake and able to speak to her family, which provided a very important – albeit early – indication that there were positive signs for Maria’s recovery.
Since that time, Maria has been making small but significant steps. She was moved out of the Neurological Critical Care Unit on Monday and is no longer receiving sedation. Her family remain by her side and she is communicating freely with them and the medical team. Medical assessments are ongoing to monitor Maria’s improving condition.
We have provided this update with the consent and support of the De Villota family who, whilst keen to ensure Maria’s care remains the priority, are understanding and appreciative of the concern for her wellbeing.
Marussia F1 team released the following statement yesterday regarding the condition of injured test driver Maria De Villota:
Earlier today, Maria underwent further surgery at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. This was a planned procedure that would depend upon the continued stability of Maria’s head injuries, and this morning the medical team were sufficiently happy with her progress to allow the operation to go ahead.
The surgeons successfully completed the next phase of surgery required to address Maria’s facial injuries. After the lengthy initial procedure, which commenced on Tuesday and concluded on Wednesday, today’s secondary operation took significantly less time.
Since the operation today, Maria’s condition in relation to the head trauma she received has further improved, to the extent that she is now “serious but stable”.
Whilst Maria remains acutely ill, this confirms that she has been responding well to the treatment she has received since her accident. Coupled with the significant progress that has been made with regard to her facial injuries, we feel sufficiently comfortable to proceed with a further update.
On a more personal note, we have taken a great deal of encouragement from today’s developments and the rather more positive signs for Maria’s family.
Marussia F1 team have released the following statement on behalf of the De Villota family:
Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge
5 July 2012, 20.00hrs
“Maria remains in a critical but stable condition here at Addenbrooke’s Hospital. While there is no further news than that at present, we have at least been able to take encouragement from the fact that Maria has remained stable throughout since the accident, particularly during the first night following such a lengthy surgical procedure as she experienced yesterday.
We, the family, are supporting each other here at Maria’s side and we take great comfort from the remarkable medical care she has been receiving. We remain positive and this is due, in no small part, to the overwhelming expression of love and support for Maria from every corner of the world. We would also wish to thank everyone at the Marussia F1 Team for all the care and attention they have shown us over the past few days.
With our sincere gratitude.”
Isabel De Villota
Representative of the De Villota Family & Maria’s Sister