Caterham CT05 launch analysis

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Caterham have not really held a launch, but instead immediately got on with the job and got their car running a little past 15:00. It was troublesome to get going, but after the fourth fire up, the engine kept running and rookie Marcus Ericsson got on with the installation lap.

The CT05 as it is named features a striking new nose and front wing, the latter being an impressive evolution of last year's front wing. It is clear that Caterham have switched to 2014 development early on, resulting in a few intriguing solutions.

Contrary to other front wings seen on launch cars, the Caterham one does feature rather complicated endplates that are clearly targeted at guiding air around the front wheels. On top of the main plane and on the stacked winglets are also vertical strakes that are pointing outboard, helping to guide air away from the nose cone and around the front wheels.

The nose cone itself surely is one of the most peculiar of all 2014 cars as the team took a unique approach of having a narrow low nose, perfectly fitting the front impact structure, supporting the front wing with two short pillars and meeting the cross section regulations 50mm behind the tip of the nose.

The crash structure starts with a spherical shape, gradually narrowing out as the height of the element increases. The team have also chosen to not taper the bottom upwards, but instead create something like a stabiliser that ends approximately at the front bulkhead.

Above the low nose is a non-structural panel that holds the camera mountings on each side and attached to the front bulkhead of the chassis. Its shape shows that it clearly is designed to divert air underneath the chassis for aerodynamic gains at the rear of the car. Knowing that this panel is not structural, the team does have simple ways to modify its nose cone without requiring another crash test.

The chassis itself is at near maximum height, except for a curve at the front, required to have the front bulkhead no higher than the allowed 550mm above the reference plane.

Caterham have meanwhile also taken a careful look at the front pull rod suspension of Ferrari in 2012 and 2013 and have adopted it, going the other way of McLaren as that team reverts to push rod after a single, troubled year with a pull rod actuated suspension at the front. To get enough angle in the wishbones, the upper front wishbone attaches to the very top of the chassis. Ferrari did resolve this in a similar fashion, even though their vanity panel above the upper wishbone mounting hides the fact that it's so marginal for them as well.

Further back, the sidepods still look fairly bulky and may become a necessary item to focus on if the team is to keep up with the tightly packaged top teams. The cooling inlets do not look extremely big, but the undercut on the sidepod is minimal. It is clear that Caterham have gone conservative on the cooling or have yet to find a compact solution to cool their Renault F1-2014.

At the very back, large cooling exit holes are present for the sidepods with a somewhat similar approach to Ferrari, featuring wide apertures left and right of the exhaust, still allowing normal airflow to flow onto the top of the diffuser. This further accentuates how Caterham have chosen to have a tight coke bottle shape to get decent airflow just above the car's floor, obviously at the penalty of taller sidepods which will likely not do any good to the car's centre of gravity.

The exhaust itself exits fairly high above the crash stucture, but still the team applied heat resistive coating on top of that carbon fibre to protect it. The inconel exhaust pipe is applied with a similar coating.

Finally, the rear wing is supported by two central pylons that attach to the rear impact structure and curve around the exhaust pipe. Behind those two pillars, attached with a carbon extension is a monkey seat, attempting to get some downforce out of the exhaust flow.

All in all, this does look like a serious step forward for Caterham, but it's unlikely they will be able to compete with cars that are much more tightly packaged.