Michael Bailey, Formula One correspondent
Sunday, November 25, 2012
Norfolk marque Caterham played their part in an epic finish to the 2012 Formula One season, with a best ever 11th place finish in Brazil to secure millions of pounds in extra funding for next season.
The Hingham-backed outfit faced finishing their third season in the sport outside the constructors’ championship top 10 for the first time, and the prospect of losing a minimum £7m in prize money in the process.
Only a 12th placed finish or better ahead of fellow 2010 new boys Marussia would salvage Caterham’s disappointing season – matching their best result in the sport and, on recent form, something that looked a tall order.
But a truly enthralling season finalé in Sao Paulo not only saw Sebastian Vettel claim a third successive drivers’ title, but the rain and drama allowed Caterham’s Vitaly Petrov to take a stunning 11th at the chequered flag – helped by a final safety car – to leave the Norfolk team beaming in Brazil, and probably for the rest of the winter.
“What an incredible race – I’m so pleased for the whole team and I want to thank every single one of them for doing such a fantastic job in the conditions,” said the Russian.
“Seeing what regaining 10th place in the championship meant to everyone when I got back to the garage was really special and I think we deserve it after all the hard work we’ve put in throughout the whole year.
“On track it was one of the hardest races I’ve ever been in, but also one of the best. I was pushing as much as I could as the conditions kept changing. We made the right calls on the stops and every time I came in the boys were perfect.
“I had a good battle with Charles Pic until the last few laps but then got him into turn three and just pulled away. From there it was all about keeping it on track and when I heard the safety car was coming out and I knew I had one lap left to go it was such a great feeling.”
Ironically, Marussia driver Pic was confirmed in one of Caterham’s seats for next season earlier in the week. It remains to be seen who will join him.
Petrov’s team-mate Heikki Kovalainen, who finished 14th, added: “I’m really pleased for the team today and delighted after a pretty intense race. It was one of those afternoons when anything could have happened and I think it was down to really good work right across the whole team that got us to where we finished today. It was all about the final result and it came good right when it mattered.”
Newly appointed team principal Cyril Abiteboul said: “I want to say how proud we are of the job we’ve done today. It’s been a tough year, one where we have not performed at the level we want to, but today we have very good reason to celebrate.
“On balance, we deserved to regain 10th place. Our results over the whole season were better than our nearest rivals and when it mattered we were able to seize the opportunity that came our way. That is the mark of a good team and it means we head into the winter break and next year in a positive frame of mind.”