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Excellent Valencia shows how far Caterham have come

Heikki Kovalainen discusses things with a Caterham engineer ahead of the start to Sunday's European Grand Prix in Valencia. Photo: Charles Coates

Heikki Kovalainen discusses things with a Caterham engineer ahead of the start to Sunday's European Grand Prix in Valencia. Photo: Charles Coates

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Caterham proved they are edging towards the midfield pack with a strong qualifying and race effort in Sunday’s European Grand Prix.

The Hingham marque saw Heikki Kovalainen take his CT01 into Q2 for only the second time this season and qualify ahead of both Toro Rossos, before the Finn finished Sunday’s race an excellent 14th – and a place below team-mate Vitaly Petrov, who produced his best effort of the year to date.

In fact, but for being on the wrong end of a few collisions Caterham could have been in serious points contention for the first time in their short history.

And with the British Grand Prix next up, and with more updates on the way after the successful ones taken to Spain, there are significant signs of encouragement for Caterham.

“What a race,” said Caterham chief executive Riad Asmat. “I am very proud of the job the whole team did today. The pitstops were excellent, the strategy calls were spot on and both drivers pushed as hard as they could.

“The two incidents obviously cost us time on both cars, but it is very good to see that we are so close to the pack ahead – enough to give Heikki and Vitaly a chance to fight and another 13th and 14th place helps us consolidate our (10th) place in the Championship, so this has been a good weekend.”

Technical director Mark Smith added: “Without the contact with (Jean-Eric) Vergne and (Daniel) Ricciardo we may have been able to finish a couple of places higher, but we have to be pleased with how we reacted to the incidents on track, and the fact that we have clearly made some gains here.

“We have more upgrades to come for Silverstone and if we keep up this level of momentum we have a very exciting second half of the season ahead of us.”

Kovalainen’s high point came in qualifying, helping to knock out Vergne and Red Bull’s Mark Webber in Q1 before his late run pipped Vergne in Q2.

But Petrov’s was on Sunday, when the Russian rose to 20th in the drivers’ championship thanks to his 13th finish.

“I’m really pleased with how today’s race went,” said Petrov. “Even though we were running 10th at one point, I’m not sure a point was quite within reach, but it’s really encouraging to see how we’ve progressed here and we know we have more to come in Silverstone so we have something good to fight for and that’s great for the whole team.”

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