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Caterham move to quash speculation over car safety at Russian Grand Prix

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Caterham move to quash speculation over car safety at Russian Grand Prix
Oct 20, 2014, 4:30 PM

The beleaguered Caterham F1 team has moved to quash concerns over car safety after a photo emerged on the BBC F1 website today showing a patched-u...

The beleaguered Caterham F1 team has moved to quash concerns over car safety after a photo emerged on the BBC F1 website today showing a patched-up rear suspension unit on Kamui Kobayashi's car from the Russian GP.

The Leafield based team, which was rescued from closure this summer by Colin Kolles, Manfredi Ravetto and a group of investors, has admitted that funding is a problem. But Ravetto later denied Kobayashi's claims made to BBC TV and BBC Radio 5 Live during Sunday's race that he had retired the car because the management was worried about the lifing of parts on the car.

"Actually there was nothing (wrong)," Kobayashi told BBC 5 Live. "There is no reason (to retire), but the management decided to stop the car during the race the reason was maybe to save the mileage. "We have a lot of mileage limitations on the car so to avoid an accident I got a message from top management."

According to the BBC report, prior to final practice in Sochi, Kobayashi had also posted a Facebook message on a personal account expressing reservations about the repair.

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 16.21.13

"Scary!" Japanese driver wrote. "Last night a suspension defect was found. There's no spare so it was repaired by wrapping it in carbon. It's checked all the time but, even so, being asked to race like this is too scary! I want to go home already.

"From here on there are still practices and the race to go. I'm seriously troubled. As a racing driver, should I drive? Should I safely decline? I drive again in 15 minutes…"

Ravetto said in a statement last week that Kobayashi's car had been retired due to overheating brakes, a line which was attributed to Kobayashi in the official Caterham press release after the race.

The photo of the patched-up suspension part has again raised concerns about Caterham not having enough spare parts and using old parts on the car, which is not a common practice in modern F1. In this case, it appears to be a repair using carbon fibre to a suspension part that had been damaged previously.

Kamui Kobayashi
However, Caterham today confirmed that the repair had been frequently evaluated across the course of the race weekend, that "at no time did [Kobayashi] have any reason to believe it was not safe" and the team has once again reiterated that it retired the Japanese driver's car due to a brake issue.

“After Friday practice at the Russian Grand Prix, the team performed the standard checks on the cars and we noticed a small inconsistency on the left rear suspension of Kamui Kobayashi’s car," read a team statement.

"It was extensively evaluated at Sochi and Leafield and ultimately a carbon fibre wrap was applied to provide additional reinforcement – a normal procedure. The component was signed off as safe and re-checked between each subsequent session, to be absolutely sure there was no issue.

"Kamui withdrew the [Facebook] post mentioned and drove the car in this form throughout the rest of the weekend, with no hint of any other problem with the suspension. Kamui was kept informed at all times and at no time did he have any reason to believe it was not safe.

“The fact of Kamui having to retire from the race has nothing to do with the above," concluded the statement. "We saw an issue on the brakes – a problem that Kamui had already reported on Saturday during FP3 - so we decided to change them, but the problem persisted so we decided to stop."

Kobayashi's manager Chikara Funada has also tried to dampen any repercussions caused by  his driver's comments telling the BBC: "On that morning, Kamui was informed of a certain issue by the team. He immediately told me what he just been told and we told the team our concern.

"In the end, the team cleared the concern which we had in our minds.

"This comment was Kamui's immediate reaction when he heard about an issue, which he meant to say only to his close friends and families as this was on his private account."

Funada added Kobayashi was "very shocked" his comment had been made public, adding: "He and the team are preparing for (the next race in) Austin."

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