With the announcement that both of their reserve drivers, Alexander Rossi and Ma Qing Hua, will be occupying the cockpit during the first practice session of the next two Grands Prix, it could be speculated that Caterham F1 Team is already looking ahead to the 2014 season.
According to an interview with Rossi, Caterham has given the drivers a program to run during their FP1 drives, but hasn’t discouraged the wheel men from pushing their Renault-powered CT03s and showing a bit of flash. Pair that with the hints the team has dropped suggesting that these will not be the last drives that the two young men will get, and then consider the team’s performance thus far in 2013, and it is enough to make me think that Caterham is already holding tryouts for their 2014 race seats.
The Leafield, UK based team is currently one of only three teams that have yet to score a championship point. Both of their current race drivers, Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde, are new to the team so replacing them wouldn’t ruffle too many feathers with the Caterham fan base. Pic came to Caterham by way of Marussia F1 Team for who he made his Formula 1 debut for in 2012. Van der Garde is a rookie, having spent last season with Caterham’s GP2 team. The best finish between the two so far in the 2013 F1 season has been 14th, which Pic managed at the Malaysia Grand Prix.
Of course we are currently only two races into the season, so there is hope for improvement as the year progresses, but a team on the low end of the Formula One totem pole already thinking about the next season isn’t too far-fetched, especially considering the rule changes that will come into play when the 2014 season gets underway.
With the decision by the FIA to make a switch to 1.6-liter V6 engines, there will be an opportunity for some of the less successful teams, like Caterham, to perhaps catch up to their big brothers. Of course the conclusion can be drawn that the better funded teams will maintain their advantage due to the fact that they can sink more money into R&D on the new engines, but it is still possible for teams like Caterham to make up some ground.
It is entirely possible that Caterham is only using van der Garde and Pic to close out the V8 era in Formula 1, although of the two I’d have to say van der Garde has the better chance of sticking around given that he came up through the lower formulas with the team. If that is indeed Caterham’s plan, then it seems as though the team is currently unofficially auditioning drivers for their 2014 team starting with Rossi and Ma.
Ma will be taking the wheel during FP1 of the Chinese Grand Prix, giving him the opportunity to drive in his native country. Rossi’s first spin of 2013 will be the following week at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
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