The final piece of the 2014 world championship jigsaw has fallen into place this morning as Caterham announces its line-up.
As widely speculated, Kamui Kobayashi returns to F1 after a season in GT racing, while Swedish GP2 racer Marcus Ericsson makes the step up to F1.
Completing the Sauber link - Kobayashi previously raced for the Swiss team - Robin Frijns is named as reserve driver along with Alexander Rossi, who, along with Rio Haryanto, will spearhead Caterham's GP2 challenge.
Kobayashi joins the Anglo-Malaysian outfit as the sport heads towards a new era in F1 history with all-new rules for the season ahead. The recruitment of the popular Japanese driver and rookie Ericsson sees the Leafield-based outfit field its third line-up in as many seasons.
"I'm very pleased we can finally unveil our drivers for the year ahead," said Cyril Abiteboul, Team Principal and CEO. "The process may have taken longer than we'd have liked, but we didn't want or need to be rushed into such important decisions and we have been in the happy position of having a wide range of drivers to choose from for both series. I believe that we have exciting, dynamic talents in both F1 and GP2 and I know just how excited everyone in the F1 team and Caterham Racing are about working with all five drivers.
"In F1, I'm delighted that we've been able to bring Kamui back. He is a very popular driver and it's very good for the whole team we've been able to attract such an exciting driver to join us at a critical point in our development. His pace speaks for itself, and his extensive experience of developing cars, particularly in his years with Toyota, will be incredibly important for us as we tackle one of the most challenging seasons F1 has ever embarked upon.
"Alongside him is Marcus who will be racing in his debut F1 season in 2014, but as a driver who has prepared perfectly for the step up to F1 with his graduation through the ranks. He started his single-seat career by winning Formula BMW UK in 2007 and rose through the ranks to GP2 where, last year, he won in Germany, scored two poles, three fastest laps and five podiums. He's physically and mentally prepared for what lies ahead, and he will have all the support we can give him across the team to help him fulfil his obvious potential in Formula One.
"Robin is another new addition to our driver roster and he comes to us as one of the most highly rated talents around – just look at how he dominated the two Renault-backed series he competed in during the 2012 and 2013 seasons for clear evidence of that. He won Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 in 2011, recording five wins that year, and then he won Formula Renault 3.5 in 2012, putting three more victories on the board. He has raw pace and impressed our engineers enormously with the sessions he's completed in our simulator – put simply, he has the talent to go right to the top of our sport. He will be our Reserve at all races where Alexander is focused on GP2 and he will have a number of F1 runs throughout the year, immersing him in the F1 team and helping him develop his understanding of what it takes to operate at the top level.
"In GP2 we want to be competing for race wins and titles from the first race. Alexander showed last year that he's ready to make a push for the championship, and we're continuing his F1 development in 2014 by combining his GP2 commitments with another year as an F1 team Reserve Driver. I firmly believe he has the talent to achieve the ambitious targets we are setting him and I'm excited about seeing him fulfil his potential in GP2 this year. Rio joins the team with two years of GP2 already under his belt and he and Alexander make a formidable pairing – we're all excited about seeing them and the team add to Caterham Racing's already crowded trophy cabinet and use that as a benchmark for the F1 team!
"By any measure, we have an exciting range of drivers across F1 and GP2 who will make headlines for both teams throughout the year - sometimes because they're pushing a bit too hard, but, on balance, that's what motor racing needs. Our F1 team will benefit enormously from having Kamui and Marcus spearhead our challenge in 2014 – they provide powerful motivation for us to renew our efforts to succeed throughout the season ahead and demonstrate that our shareholders and senior management know what it takes to progress. Overall, I'm pleased that we're able to give all five of the drivers we'll work with in F1 and GP2 the platform to show what they can do on a global stage and I'm excited about seeing all of them develop in green throughout the year ahead."
"It's a great feeling to be back as an F1 race driver and I'm really pleased it's with Caterham," said Kobayashi. "We've been talking to Cyril and Tony since last year about driving for the team for 2014 and beyond and throughout all our discussions I've been very impressed with where they want to take the team, and how much investment has been made already to help them achieve their goals. For me, it's a great honour that the team hired me based on the value I bring in racing terms, and the experience I have and I am so happy that I am able to make this announcement today. I will do my very best to lead the team and work as hard as possible to achieve our targets.
"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."
"I first visited the factory in Leafield just before Christmas and it's clear how hungry the whole team is to make progress. Last year was a tough season but the new rules this year mean that everyone in F1 is starting again and that means everybody has a chance to improve. From what I've seen, Caterham now has everything in place to progress this year and for many seasons to come. We're all realistic about what we can actually achieve this year, and until we've run the car properly at the tests it's still too early to see where we are compared to the other teams, but whatever happens we have to move forwards this year. For me, it's a chance to start again with a new team but one that's serious about progressing, and for the team, 2014 is the first chance to show what they can do with all the people and infrastructure they've built up in Leafield since moving there in 2012.
"I can't wait to start work again, and one of the benefits to making this announcement so close to the start of the tests means I only have a few days to wait to get back on track! Before then I'll be at the factory as much as possible, working in the simulator and with everyone there to prepare as much as we can for the tests in Jerez and Bahrain. Physically and mentally I'm fully prepared, now I just want to get back to work!"