Caterham rookie Marcus Ericsson has admitted it was driver error that saw him crash out of qualifying today.
Heavy rain and poor visibility delayed the start of the session for almost an hour, though by the time cars finally hit the track most opted for intermediate tyres. However, conditions were still far from ideal as drivers went in search of grip away from the traditional oil-soaked racing line.
Ericsson, who had not previously experienced wet conditions in a Formula One car, did not enjoy the best start to the session as he was left stranded at the end of pit lane as the lights turned green. As car after car poured by him the team was forced to drag the stricken Caterham back to the garage before restarting it. Once back on track the young Swede gradually grew in confidence, but was ultimately caught out by the conditions as he ran wide in the long right-handed turn three.
An innocuous corner barely worth a mention in the dry, the wet conditions transformed it in to a tricky curved acceleration zone capable of catching out the unprepared or over-confident.
And so it was that, with little more than half a minute left of the opening phase of qualifying, Ericsson accelerated out of the tight turn two, his car meandering progressively toward the outer edge of the circuit as it swept right towards the uphill turn four, and inevitably ran out of road. With two wheels on the sodden, slippery painted kerb the 23-year-old skated haplessly in to the barrier before bouncing back on to the circuit, taking a polystyrene braking marker with him and forcing Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez having to take avoiding action. The Swede eventually slid to a halt on the inside of the circuit, his right front wheel torn asunder, forcing race control to red flag the session with 35 seconds left on the clock.
"I'm really sorry for the team," said Ericsson after the incident. "They've worked so hard all weekend on the problems we've had, and now they have another huge job ahead of them to prepare the car for tomorrow.
"This has been another big lesson for me - my first wet running in F1, my first Q1 on inters and my first big off - it's all part of being a rookie in F1 and I will learn from every single thing that happens."
Luckily for Ericsson the damage was largely contained to the front corner, as although the rear clouted the barrier it escaped without damaging the driveshaft or gearbox, making Caterham's repair job somewhat easier than it might have been.
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