Jarno Trulli is adamant that Caterham can break into the Formula 1 midfield next year.
Well-documented struggles with the handling of the former Lotus team's 2011 challenger, particularly with the power steering system, led to speculation that Trulli could be replaced for 2012. The Italian, a veteran of 252 grand prix starts, said that even in the worst moments of 2011 however he was focused on helping the team to prepare for its third season of competition, as Caterham bids to realize its goal of breaking into the F1 midfield. He insisted that changes to the technical team and the introduction of KERS have made the team's target of a points finish an entirely legitimate goal for 2012.
"Things are getting really promising," Trulli told La Repubblica after a recent visit to the Caterham factory. "We'll finally have the KERS we didn't have last year, and that's a big help. I remember that when I didn't have it, at Toyota, it was a problem that made the difference. The team's technical structure will improve too: new engineers are coming in all the times and the hiring of John Iley confirms the team's ambitions.
"I don't want to say I'm going to win races, but I think the ambition to leave the group of newcomers and to get into the midfielders one is legitimate. We'll begin showing what we're capable of in the races and score points."
Trulli also spoke of his motivation to help the team and win a further renewal to his contract, saying that he was confident his struggles this year could be identified and rectified.
"To be honest it wasn't the entire car I didn't like: I had many problems with our power steering and the feeling I'd get from it," he explained. "But I'm certain this problem will be solved next year and that the car will improve a lot.
"I was comforted by the fact that in the team everybody knew the technical problem I had, it was evident and the telemetry would show it. Heikki [Kovalainen] was able to adapt with his driving style, while because of my clean driving I wasn't able to at all.
"In the races, I think I did a fine job for my team. You just need to look at the points table: the best results of the season came from me. I scored the two 13th places that ensured the team the 10th spot in the constructors' championship, a result worth plenty of money for us in F1 for only the past two years."
Trulli said that such prize money proved both his and teammate Kovalainen's worth as professional drivers and rewarded the team's decision not to take a pay driver.
"Some teams are small and to survive they need to count the beans and so are forced to put the seat up for rent," he said. "These are economic decision. In my opinion, it's not worth it.
"Just look what happened to Renault. While they had Kubica, a fine driver able to bring out the best from the car, they were considered the outsiders. As soon as Robert was out, they were finished. Petrov wasn't able to lead the team and the car, and Senna has demonstrated to be not good enough. Nick, with his experience, despite having done only half a season was able to score almost as many points as Petrov. So now they're trying to fix the situation by resorting to Raikkonen, who is no rookie, and Grosjean, who has [risen] through the ranks.
"These days it's a pursuit of survival, so a different kind of approach is necessary. But as soon as the ambitions grow a bit, that approach becomes a loser in my opinion.
"It's not a rule, but it's true that the ones that pay are less used to suffer. They're less determined. When you go through the ranks, often as a young boy, many times you find yourself in the conditions of being forced to win. Either you get the result or you don't have a second chance.
"I have precise memories about it. I was a kid, I was in karting; my father came to me with the most serious expression I've ever seen him, and said, 'Jarno, this is the last chance. We have a chassis, four wheels and an engine, we go to this race but we can't go beyond that.' The only thing I knew was that I would have won in any condition. My career only went on thanks to that victory."