Caterham gets a little bit of help in search for buyer
The decision was taken during last week’s F1 Commission meeting in Geneva and allows administration-hit Caterham an opportunity to be on the grid next year.
For a potential purchaser it means there is no pressure to build a car for 2015, particularly as time is of the essence with pre-season testing to start in early February, ahead of the new season beginning in Australia on March 15.
With the decision to be ratified by this week’s meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Doha, it would allow a new owner to at least be in F1 with a base on which to build for 2016, and ensure that F1 will go into 2015 with 10 teams competing and 20 cars on the grid.
Administrator Finbarr O’Connell, who represented Caterham as acting team principal at last month’s Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, said: “The F1 Commission and FIA agreed if it would assist the weaker teams [if] they can use the 2014 car next year, giving them more time and options.
“That is of interest to all the parties I’m talking to because it gives them a choice, an easier start to get into F1 if they chose that route.
Caterham, who have been in F1 since 2010 but have never scored a point in 94 races, ran into financial difficulties during the 2014 season because of the high costs to compete in the sport, as well as increased costs of receiving new 1.6-litre V6 turbo engines, which were brought in for 2014.
The team went into administration after the Russian Grand Prix in October, missed the races in the United States and Brazil, and made 230 of the team’s staff redundant.
A crowd-funding initiative saw £1.92 million (Dh11m) raised through public donations, and those funds, as well as contributions from sponsors, enabled them to compete with a skeleton staff in Abu Dhabi with Kamui Kobayashi and Will Stevens driving.
Following Leafield-based Caterham’s appearance in the race at Yas Marina Circuit and then the two-day post-season test on that track, O’Connell said a deal before Christmas was crucial if the team were to survive.
The F1 Commission’s decision has taken some of the burden off O’Connell to conclude a sale before the festive season.
“Before Christmas would still be ideal,” O’Connell said. “It now doesn’t have to happen by then, but the earlier the better from my point of view, and I’m encouraging people as much as I can.
“It’s a very difficult purchase decision for any party because of the huge costs involved in running a F1 team.
“I’m still talking to a few interested parties, and I’m hoping one of them can do the deal.”
O’Connell made it clear that it was not just one group interested in taking over the team, which was first set up by Malaysian businessman Tony Fernandes, and that he did have options for ensuring the team had a positive future.
“The number of people I’m talking to has increased, with two very strong candidates, and a third less strong,” he said.
“All I can do is show what I have, show the team, the assets and the facilities, and facilitate in any way I can with them making a decision.
“I remain confident something will be done.”
Caterham are looking to avoid the fate of Marussia, who went out of business last month, having gone into administration in October, with their remaining assets to be sold off at auction on December 16-17.
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Published: December 1, 2014 04:00 AM