Heikki Kovalainen believes Caterham could be within 0.3sec of joining the battle in the Formula 1 midfield this year, following the completion of his preseason test program at Barcelona on Saturday.
Kovalainen, who handed over the CT01-Renault to his teammate Vitaly Petrov for the final day of testing on Sunday, suspects that the squad is now in a far stronger position than before, when it competed under the Lotus name. After ending the day seventh quickest – and ahead of the upgraded Red Bull RB8 of Mark Webber – Kovalainen said that there was less cause for caution than in previous seasons.
"I think scoring points is the great goal, but the main aim right now is to join the main pack, the midfield. Whether we have the pace to do that or not, I don't know yet," said the 30-year-old Finn. "Looking at today's running I'd say we are reasonably close to a lot of people, but I don't know exactly what they've done and they don't know what we've done. We can only guess.
"It looks like Williams is the next one for us and if today [Saturday] we were running the same fuel loads then we are a couple of tenths behind them. I'm not sure if that's the case or not. We just have to keep working toward that."
Kovalainen said the biggest improvement since last week's Barcelona running had come in feel of the car on corner entry, and that he was now far more confident in the grip levels at the front end.
"We've found the direction we needed to go in," he added. "We know where the lazy turn-in is coming from and we ran some modifications for today that were helping – especially on the short runs.
"We have a new front wing coming for Melbourne, so I think we will make even more progress there."