Not one to go out with a whimper, Badger arrives at Caterham in the last our series looking into the 2014 silly season; a team that has more drivers than any other team linked to it’s set of race seats for 2015 it seems.
In truth, cash-craving Caterham couldn’t even wait for 2015 to put a new driver in the CT05 cockpit, with sportscar ace Andre Lotterer taking Kamui Kobayashi’s seat for the Belgium Grand Prix, followed two weeks later by Roberto Mehri starring in FP1 at Monza, and seemingly working towards an FIA Superlicence with a view to making his race debut later this season.
In fact, no less than eight drivers have driven this season’s car since it’s inception!
So, where does that leave current drivers Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson? Both are men of contrasting circumstance, with Ericsson being brought in as a pay driver above and beyond his mediocre GP2 success, whilst Kobayashi’s reintroduction to F1 was born out of a desire to have a tried and proven driver in the team to help drive the sport’s bottom feeders skywards. Ericsson for one has failed to impress on practically any level, with the Swedes performances this season often yielding little more than the title of “last one across the line is a rotten egg”.
Granted, Caterham have had the slowest car all season, but Ericsson hasn’t been able to hold a candle to Kamui at any point. Worse still, debutant and potential replacement Mehri outpaced Ericsson at Monza in his first experience of F1. Ouch. 2014 was a window of opportunity for the Scandinavian, but it looks like it could be curtains drawn instead.
As for Kobayashi, it’s been a case of fighting a battle with one hand tied behind his back right from the first pre-season test way back in February, with the flawed Renault power unit and a below-par chassis offering little opportunity to demonstrate his underlying speed. The Japanese driver has done well in front of the camera to keep a brave face this season, but even so the cracks have at times shown, more through frustration than his broken English. A strong Monza showing in qualifying to out-do the two Marussia’s can be lauded, but with little bucks on the table and paying drivers ready to leap over him, one has to feel that Kamui’s days are numbered.
So who’s in the frame at Caterham?
Carlos Sainz Jr was the first name to being linked this season, with rumours beginning to circulate prior to the British GP in July. Sainz has had an extraordinary season in World Series by Renault, with the Spaniard winning half of the races he has completed so far this season, and almost certainly being on course to win the title with DAMS. Speaking of DAMS, Jolyon Palmer is hardly doing a bad job for the team in GP2, currently leading the series after a brilliant recovery drive and victory in the two races in Monza. On talent alone, Formula One should have a place for the Brit in 2015, the mere fact that his dad owns MSV and thus has the dollar that a team like Caterham needs only improves his chances.
Elsewhere, Roberto Mehri enjoyed a strong FP1 debut in Italy and looks set to feature again this season at the expense of Kobayashi (again). Former team member Giedo Van Der Garde, GP2 runner Julian Leal and quick Brit Will Stevens are also hovering around the seat, with the latter duo already auditioning during this year’s in-season test at Silverstone. The seats are open, the successful applicants’ undecided, but one thing’s for sure; compromising Caterham are one the unfortunate teams that need the money more than they need the talent, purely to survive.