Kovalainen: New Caterham is more difficult to drive

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Heikki Kovalainen believes that the Caterham CT-03 is a more difficult car to drive compared its 2012 predecessor, citing this as the reason behind the team’s poor start to the season.

The Finnish driver drove for Caterham between 2010 and 2012, but he was dropped at the end of last season in favor of Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde. However, Kovalainen ran for the team during FP1 in Bahrain to gauge how the new car differed from last season’s, and he believes that many of the problems are rooted in the new Pirelli tires.

Talking to Sky Sports, Kovalainen said “I could feel that the car is more difficult to drive than it was at the end of last year.

“Of course things have changed, tires have changed, the setup has changed as a result and mainly because of these two things the car has become a bit more difficult to drive.”

Kovalainen was also confident that the upgrades the team is bringing to the Spanish Grand Prix would see them beat closest rivals Marussia, who currently occupy P10 in the constructors’ championship.

“On the other hand I could feel there was more we could use in this car and I felt that after driving the car we should be able to beat Marussia and now with the updates coming we should be in a position to beat them.”

This judgement will provide some comfort for Pic and van der Garde, who have both struggled to make much of an impact so far this season. Last time out in Bahrain, Pic impressed to finish ahead of Jules Bianchi and the Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez, and he will be keen on building upon this good form with the new upgrades.

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.