Sidepodcast - All for F1 and F1 for all

A spiralling descent for Caterham - F1 winds itself into another fine mess

Published by Christine

Formula One is an expensive business, and it seems that there have been at least one or two teams in financial difficulties for the last few seasons. The situation has come to a head over the past few days, and it has been confirmed that both Marussia and Caterham will miss the next race in the United States, and are unlikely to see out the end of the season. Both teams are in administration, with buyers hard to come by in the current economic climate.

Another fine F1 mess

Whilst the two teams are both dealing with their own issues Caterham appear to have made more of a meal of things than their fellow backmarkers. The Caterham F1 (née Lotus Racing) entry into Formula One was met with legal battles galore, fights over naming rights, and plenty of bad feeling. From what we’ve seen so far, their potential exit from the sport is going down exactly the same way.

Here’s how the drama has played out so far.

29 June It had become increasingly apparent that Tony Fernandes had fallen out of love with F1 and it was only a matter of time before a team sale occurred. Midway through the year, he sells his share to a Swiss consortium called “Engavest.”

2 July The sale of the team is confirmed and made public, with former F1 driver Christijan Albers confirmed as CEO and former team boss of many backmarker outfits Colin Kolles on board as an advisor/liaison.

25 July New owners meant something of a reshuffle in the team, and unfortunately that meant letting some staff members go. The unhappy ex-employees issue a letter to Caterham, claiming unlawful dismissal and that back salaries remain unpaid. They seek an amicable settlement.

20 August Andre Lotterer is confirmed to replace Kamui Kobayashi for the Belgian Grand Prix. There had been some speculation about the Japanese driver's future with the team, particularly since the takeover, but they insist that he remains a part of the squad despite the last minute deputisation.

29 August After receiving no response from their letter, the former employees of Caterham issue legal action against the team for unlawful dismissal.

4 September Kamui Kobayashi airs his frustrations over the political side of the team, that he has had to miss out on race and seat time. He admits he’s consulted lawyers but can do nothing at the moment as he is under contract. He is due back in the car for the Italian Grand Prix.

7 September Christijan Albers steps down as CEO of Caterham citing personal reasons, namely a desire to spend more time with his family. Manfredi Ravetto takes over the running of the team.

1 October Bailiffs enter the Leafield factory and seize goods which are put up on an auction list. They are later removed as confusion emerges over the difference between supplier company Caterham Sports Limited, and 1MRT, the company that owns the F1 entry. The team say they are running as normal.

3 October Ravetto declares that the new owners made a mistake by staying at the Leafield factory, that they should have moved to new premises to avoid the confusion between Caterham Sports Limited and the actual team outfit.

Caterham colours

12 October The team participate in the Russian Grand Prix as normal. Kamui Kobayashi retires from the race and, in an interview, says there was nothing wrong with the car but the team just asked him to stop. The team refute this by saying there was clear telemetry showing a problem with the brakes.

15 October Manfredi Ravetto reiterates that the team aren’t suffering from a lack of components, Kobayashi spoke out of turn, and that they are making progress - as much as possible given the situation.

17 October It emerges that discussions have begun between administrators and Manfredi Ravetto to find a solution for the financial problems.

21 October Management at Leafield suggest the future of the F1 team is not in doubt. They reiterate Caterham Sports Limited is a separate company to 1MRT, who owns the racing licence, and these are not to be confused.

22 October The Engavest group say they may quit Formula One after growing frustration with the administrators and Tony Fernandes. The administrators are hampering their work, despite being two separate companies. Tony Fernandes is now claiming he still owns the team, after a legal problem with the transfer of shares.

23 October The Leafield factory is closed to employees by the administrators.

Colin Kolles says he has done his best to solve the financial problems, that the team were ready to go to Austin but they may not now be able to.

Tony Fernandes hits out at current owners. He claims the “pay staff and creditors” clause has not been met, as the operating company has been put into administration. Thus, lawyers are involved and Fernandes claims his shareholding has not legally been transferred.

Engvast condemn this, saying they have met all stated terms.

24 October The management team led by Colin Kolles and Manfredi Ravetto step aside. Administrators Smith & Williamson take control. The intent is to find a buyer to keep the outfit running, but the employees in Leafield are told not to return to the factory until a buyer has been found.

Bernie gives Caterham special dispensation to miss two Grands Prix to recover from the troubles.

27 October It emerges that Marussia have also been put into administration.

Caterham colours

It’s never a nice story to hear about a team going under. Those involved give their heart and soul to get a car on track, racing as best as possible, and for that dream to be crushed is difficult to deal with. What has become startlingly obvious, is the stark difference between how Caterham and Marussia go about their business.

The news for Marussia, coming after the tragic events of Suzuka, was handled (with the exception of Ecclestone's input) quietly and with as much dignity as one can muster. Caterham on the other hand have shouted loud and proud about their difficulties - press statement followed press statement, angry Twitter rant followed media blitz. Given the reaction from fans to both pieces of news over the past few days and weeks, it's clear that it isn't the team that shouts the loudest who will be missed the most when they go.