Caterham future hanging by a thread

Is it the end of the road for Caterham? (©GettyImages)

Will Caterham be seen on a Formula 1 grid again? That is the question most are asking as the owners, new and old, are embroiled in a public spat.

This week Caterham Sports Ltd., a supplier for the team, was officially put into administration by creditors for previous owner Tony Fernandes.

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As a result employees both at the Leafield factory and, according to a source, the base the new owners are trying to set up in Germany have been told to stay at home.

This means the team is now in a race against time should an agreement be made to get the equipment and cars ready to fly out to Austin for next weekend's US Grand Prix.


The chances of an agreement, however, seem rather slim based on the public spat that has emerged between the current and previous owners of the team.

In a press statement late on Wednesday, the new owners threatened legal action against Tony Fernandes claiming he had refused to comply with its legal obligations to transfer their shares to the buyer, who run under the title Engavast SA.

The new owners threatened to pull out of the team which, if the statement is true that Fernandes still has a stake in the team, could put Caterham solely back in his hands.


The latest twist comes after bailiffs claimed various items from the Leafield factory three weeks ago, an act that signifies either Fernandes still has a stake in the team or there are issues with the current owners.

In response to Wednesday's claims the Malaysian entrepreneur reportedly described them as "garbage" to the BBC before tweeting: "If you buy something you should pay for it. Quite simple." 

"Better they go"

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who has very vocal in his desire for eight three car teams, is reportedly involved in the talks between administrators and Tony Fernandes' side of the Caterham company to ensure their participation in Austin next weekend but has also had some harsh words for them and other teams who may need financial help.

"I think it's better they go," the Briton told the Sun. "I don't want people going around with begging bowls."


Should Caterham not make the grid in Austin next weekend, and be unable to provide a reason why under force majeure to the stewards, then the team, who currently are bottom of the Constructors' championship, could risk losing out on their commercial rights income for breaking the Concorde Agreement.

This would have a detrimental effect on a future sale of the Caterham team but based on comments from administrator Finbarr O'Connell, from Smith & Williamson, hopes are not yet lost.

"We had a meeting yesterday with 1MRT [ Fernandes' holding company] and lawyers and the offer they made was unacceptable. So I've sent them away," he told Reuters.

"Hopefully they can come up with an acceptable proposal.

"I don't think this is gone. It's just a case of who has got the money to make it work."

End of the road?

With all the legal wrangling going on the question of whether Caterham will be on the grid not just in Austin but in 2015 and beyond is one seemingly with a growingly negative answer.

From the only team to come in in 2010 and look remotely like succeeding, they look set to follow the same path as HRT did back in 2012.

Another new team is expected to join in 2016 as Haas F1 joins with Ferrari backing. While it appears the team headed by NASCAR team owner Gene Haas will be in a stronger place than the three teams were four years ago, in the cut throat world of Formula 1, surviving will be his first aim.

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