Caterham appoint Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson as their 2014 race drivers
Announcement completes the 2014 grid; Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde dropped; Kobayashi returns to F1 after one year on the sidelines
By Sky Sports Online. Last Updated: 04/02/14 9:19am
Kamui Kobayashi back in F1
The 2014 Formula 1 grid is now complete after Caterham confirmed Kamui Kobayashi and rookie Marcus Ericsson as their drivers for the new season with neither of their 2013 chargers, Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde, retained.
News that Kobayashi is making a return to the top flight is sure to be greeted with considerable enthusiasm. A long-time fan-favourite, the 27-year-old has spent a season racing sportscars for Ferrari after losing his Sauber drive at the end of 2012.
Despite earning a podium finish in his home Japanese GP that year, and his supporters launching an appeal fund which raised more than eight million euros, a lack of sponsorship was thought to be an insurmountable obstacle blocking Kobayashi's return to F1 in an era in which pay drivers are increasingly prevalent.
"For me, it's a great honour that the team hired me based on the value I bring in racing terms," said Kobayashi, who first visited Caterham's Oxfordshire HQ before Christmas.
"I also want to give special thanks to all the fans who have made donations to KAMUI SUPPORT. Their donations and gestures gave me extra strength to come back fighting and I am very pleased that the money they raised not only helped me but will now go to helping Caterham progress this year. Every single one of you who helped with KAMUI SUPPORT will race with me in 2014 and that makes me very proud."
Confirmation from the Leafield-based team that Ericsson is to join them puts an end to speculation about the Swede that first surfaced in November. The 23-year-old Swede finished sixth in last year's GP2 series and is the only driver from F1's feeder class to graduate this year.
"It's obviously great for Sweden that we'll have a Swedish driver back on the grid in 2014," said Ericsson. "This is what I've been working for since I first started racing karts back when I was nine years old, and now I know I'm ready for the step up to F1. Caterham is a young team and together we can take on the challenges the new rules will present in 2014 - learning together and continuing to develop as the season progresses."
Whether or not the line-up is a competitive one remains to be seen, of course, but, even with the presence of rookie Ericsson, it certainly carries more experience than last year's in a season which saw Caterham finish bottom of the pile behind Marussia.
The latter team earned a financial boost by finishing tenth in the 2013 constructors' standings but the real worry for Caterham is that their nearest rivals might do the same this season. If that happens, then they stand to lose a much larger slice of F1's prize fund.
In September, Caterham announced a continuation of their engine partnership with Renault for this season, when a major technical shake-up brings a switch to V6 turbo engines and enhanced energy recovery systems.
Despite sharing the same powerplant as World Champions Red Bull, however, they have yet to earn a World Championship point since entering the sport in 2010.
Caterham have also announced that Robin Frijns and Alexander Rossi will be their reserve drivers in 2014.
How the 2014 grid will line up
Red Bull: Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo.
Ferrari: Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen.
Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
Lotus: Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado.
McLaren: Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen.
Force India: Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez.
Sauber: Adrian Sutil and Esteban Gutierrez.
Toro Rosso: Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat.
Williams: Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas.
Marussia: Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton.
Caterham: Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson.
Caterham: Kamui Kobayashi returns to F1 and is joined by Sweden's Marcus Ericsson. Robin Frijns reserve pic.twitter.com/SmVWtCZ35E- Ted Kravitz (@tedkravitz) January 21, 2014