July 29 2014 Latest news:
Michael Bailey, Formula One correspondent
Thursday, May 29, 2014
The future of Norfolk Formula One marque Caterham looks more uncertain than ever, after a possibly defining Monaco Grand Prix – and rumours the team is up for sale.
Caterham had led the race for success from their fellow 2010 newboys, the disbanded HRT and Marussia, since arriving on the grid. But last season, the Hingham-backed team were knocked out of the constructors’ top 10 by Marussia.
And at the weekend in Monte Carlo, Jules Bianchi’s terrific effort – including a bold overtake at Rascasse on Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi – earned Marussia their first two points in Formula One, something Caterham are yet to achieve.
That was joined over the course of the weekend by reports in Malaysia that Caterham owner Tony Fernandes had put his entire Caterham Group up for sale, with an asking price of £350m – including a motorsport operation that includes their Formula One, GP2 and racing academy.
Most of the racing division is based at Leafield, near Silverstone – although there is plenty of crossover with other parts of the business, which are based at Hingham.
Malaysian business journal The Edge claimed an unspecified source said Fernandes – owner of Caterham, as well as newly promoted Premier League football club Queens Park Rangers – has put the entire British-based group of companies up for sale, including its Caterham Technology and Innovation (CTI ) and Caterham Composites divisions.
A report in Autoweek also suggested a memorandum detailing the intention to sell had been circulated in the Middle East.
Caterham had announced late last year plans to create 130 new jobs in Hingham, as part of an undisclosed multi-million pound investment into a new production plant for the next generation of Caterham cars. The companies already employ 110 people in the county.
However after grand plans for a number of exciting projects, Caterham had to scrap plans for a sportcar collaboration with Renault after the turn of the year, while delivering a new Aero Seven concept car to production has also been delayed changes were sought to the design.
Caterham’s future has been the subject of speculation since the start of the year, when Fernandes admitted in public he would look to see his Formula One team it its fifth season in the sport failed to show much improvement on its previous four. After Monaco, the team seems destined to finish last in the constructors’ championship for the second year running.
While Bianchi finished ninth following a post-race time penalty, Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson came home 11th – equalling the Norfolk marque’s best ever finish but one place short of their first point.
“Everyone knows Monaco can be a crazy race, and so this was,” said team principal Cyril Abiteboul.
“It’s a funny feeling because even though this equals our best ever finish, it still feels like we had the chance to score our first point, as Marussia did. But it was taken away from us despite the very good job both drivers and the whole team did. We had the right strategy, we timed the stops perfectly and the pit crew performed well in a tense race.
“I’m proud of the fact we had both cars there at the end of the race, even with the damage to Kamui’s car, and we have to take positives from this to help us fight back with improved performance from the car.”