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Caterham should leave F1 says Ecclestone

NEWS STORY
23/10/2014

Bernie Ecclestone has launched a stinging attack on struggling Caterham saying that it would be better if it left Formula One according to an article in the Sun by Caroline Reid.

"I think it's better they go. I don't want people going around with begging bowls," says Ecclestone.

Caterham joined F1 in 2010 but hasn't scored a single point since then and has had an even more turbulent time off track over the past few months. Its troubles centre on two companies, the UK-based Caterham Sports and 1Malaysia Racing Team in Malaysia. Until recently, Caterham Sports was owned by 1Malaysia Racing Team which in turn was owned by a group of businessmen led by Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes. 1Malaysia Racing Team holds the grid slot to race in F1 whilst Caterham Sports was set up to design and manufacture its cars in return for a fee.

In July Fernandes agreed to sell 1Malaysia Racing Team to a consortium of Swiss and Middle Eastern investors led by Swiss consultant Stefan Gyseler and advised by former F1 team boss Colin Kolles. Caterham Sports was also sold by 1Malaysia Racing Team to Romanian businessman Constantin Cojocar and although this deal went through, the other did not. As a result, although the new owners took control of 1Malaysia Racing Team, they did not own the shares in it.

Bills were left unpaid in this vacuum and, crucially, the fee to Caterham Sports was one of them. In turn Caterham Sports could not pay its bills and its shortfall was accentuated by the fact that Cojocar's expected funding did not materialise. In frustration, some creditors took Caterham Sports to court and, as Pitpass revealed earlier this month, it has been ordered to settle 750,000 of unpaid bills.

However, as pointed out in the same report, the company's lack of money was so acute that even though the court instructed Caterham Sports to pay up, it still hasn't settled bills for as little as 424. This led some of the creditors to engage bailiffs to seize equipment from Caterham's factory in Leafield so that it could be sold at auction to recover the money which is owed.

The seizure took place a few weeks ago and the goods taken include a simulator, steering wheels and a 2013 test car. Surprisingly, this was not the biggest consequence of Caterham Sports' cash shortfall. The bigger problem was linked to a 5.3m loan which Caterham Sports took out in 2012 from Export-Import Bank of Malaysia as Pitpass revealed in April.

The loan is secured on the company's assets including its factory and this gives it priority in the pecking order when it comes to bill payment. When Export-Import didn't receive the instalments on the loan it put Caterham Sports into administration so that the company's assets could also be sold at auction in order to recover the bank's money. Caterham Sports was put into administration on Monday and the risk hanging over 1Malaysia Racing Team is that if it doesn't buy its assets at the auction it may not be able to continue racing.

It is a tangled web which is why Ecclestone says he would rather be rid of the team. He adds "I don't know who owns them. I don't think anybody does. I think we ought to ask Colin. I have no idea. I don't know and I don't care. Let me tell you something, they will tell you whatever suits them to tell you. I don't know whether the deal has gone through."

Indeed it has not but, in contrast, one deal which has gone through is the sale of Caterham's junior team which competes in GP2. On Friday Fernandes sold it to Status GP, an outfit which is based in Northamptonshire and already competes in GP3. It is just the kind of stability that Caterham's F1 team needs.

In September its boss Christijan Albers resigned after just two months in charge. Italian Manfredi Ravetto took over the driving seat but the team's performance has not improved.

Marcus Ericsson finished in last place at the recent Russian Grand Prix whilst Kamui Kobayashi was one of just two drivers to not finish the race. He told the broadcaster NBC that the team's management instructed him to stop to save mileage.

"We could have done the race. Maybe I think management decided we're not fighting with anyone so we stop racing," he said "I think we have limitations with the mileage and we want to save it. I don't understand what happened, but this is what I get from the top management."

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Ex F1 Official, 23/10/2014 18:51

"Agree Also time for three car teams. Keep same # in field but have better $$ backing"

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