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Five things to look forward to in 2013 (Part 2) - The backmarker battle - Caterham and Marussia need to make huge strides forward

Published by Christine

Pocket F1 Handbook

This month, I launched my latest book, the Pocket F1 Handbook : Guide to the 2013 Grand Prix Season which features all you need to know about drivers, teams and tracks for the coming year. There's also a top ten list of things to look forward to over the coming months, and in anticipation of the first race in the next few weeks, we're going to look at five of the items - expanding on the topic and counting down the weeks until the Australian Grand Prix. Today, it's the second in our series - a closer look at the back of the pack.

This year we are down one backmarker team, as HRT failed to make the cut and had to fold at the end of 2012. With Caterham and Marussia holding up the fort at the rear of the grid, it's up to them to provide the entertainment we've come to expect from the "new" teams. It always was those two, however, that kept us looking throughout the field, particularly towards the end of last year's chaotic season.

Marussia's tight grip on tenth place in the championship was not only a surprise, but a source of deep frustration for their rivals Caterham. Unfortunately for the Marussia squad, they were pipped to the coveted position in the standings at the final race, and that means Caterham have finished tenth for three years in a row. Just as Red Bull at the front, Caterham will be looking to make it four in a row.

Or perhaps they would like to do even better. The hunt for the first constructor's point for either Caterham or Marussia is ongoing, and at the moment, it doesn't seem as though it will be any closer in 2013.

Winter testing times have to be taken with a full bag of salt, but so far, the two teams haven't made their mark at all.

Caterham and Marussia versus the rest
PositionDay 1Day 2Day 3
9thSauber 1:25.124Sauber 1:24.205
10thMarussia 1:26.747Marussia 1:25.115Toro Rosso 1:23.366
11thCaterham 1:27.534Caterham 1:26.243Marussia 1:25.690
12thCaterham 1:26.117

For the first two days in Barcelona, they were snugly in the final two positions behind Sauber. Today, the Swiss team shot up the timesheets, and as this chart shows, they left Marussia and Caterham languishing behind.

Backmarker comparison

That would seem to be a significant gap to the rest of the field - something we have come to see a lot from the backmarkers, but were perhaps hoping would be different this season.

It's also intriguing to see Marussia outperforming Caterham so far (keeping that bag of salt firmly in our grasp), particularly as the latter has a small edge in terms of experience. Charles Pic has one year under his belt but the rest of the drivers are all rookies, and that could be a great leveller when it comes to the racing action in March.

Both teams have had their fair share of technical problems throughout the testing so far, and in particular, Caterham struggled with their KERS today in Barcelona. Marussia have introduced KERS for the first time this season, and that could explain their perceived edge over their nearest competitor.

Team principal John Booth has certainly taken note of the steps forward they have been taking.

This afternoon was our chance to explore the car’s performance a little more and though we are pleased with our position relative to Caterham, we would have liked more laps to keep pushing in that direction.

- John Booth, Marussia

It'd be nice to think the two teams can keep up a friendly rivalry throughout 2013, so that we can continue to enjoy the see-saw of emotions that the tenth place championship position brings. However, it would also be exciting to see one of these two make a break for it and start hustling the midfield teams for position, maybe even points. Caterham have long been proclaiming this will be their season to get a tally on the scoreboard, but if the trend we've seen so far continues, it may be that Marussia pip them to it!

All content in the series Five things to look forward to in 2013