Fernandes hints at Caterham sale, saying “F1 hasn’t worked”

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Tony Fernandes has dropped the biggest hint yet that Caterham F1 Team is set to be sold following a series of cryptic tweets sent out yesterday.

Speculation about the sale of the team has been rife for some time, but Fernandes has stringently denied any claims that he was about to let go of the Caterham brand. As well as the Formula 1 team, he also owns the Caterham Cars programme, Caterham Racing GP2 team and Caterham Moto Racing team in the Moto 2 motorcycle class.

Fernandes was reported to be chasing a sum close to $600m for the F1 team and Caterham cars project last month. Despite constant denials, in the final few tweets from his account before he deleted it, the Malaysian businessman in a reflective mood.

“Goodbye all,” he tweeted. “Maybe I return. Been fun. And damn useful. Speak the truth be brave. Dare to dream, believe the unbelievable and never take no for an answer. Stand up for what you believe, fight oppression and most important enjoy life.”

However, the stand-out tweet simply read: “F1 hasn’t worked but love Caterham cars.”

After constantly denying that the team would be sold, it appears that Fernandes has finally accepted defeat. That said, it may only be the F1 arm of his motorsport interests that are sold, with this being by far the most costly. The GP2 and Moto 2 teams could continue to exist under his AirAsia brand, although plans for these are still unknown.

Fernandes has been bitten by a changing of the times in Formula 1. When he entered the sport with Caterham – then known as Lotus Racing – back in 2010, plans were being drawn up for a cost-cap that would allow teams to run on a figure close to $50m per year. Just as we are seeing some four years later though, there is a reluctance from the bigger teams to help the smaller ones.

Caterham entered the sport at the same time as Marussia and HRT, with the latter folding in 2012. Up until the end of 2013, it was the leading backmarker squad, but has since fallen behind Marussia after the Anglo-Russian team became the first to score any points in Monaco last month.

It is thought that a number of buyers are interested in purchasing the team from Fernandes. According to NBCSN’s Will Buxton, some Russian companies reportedly showed interest in Caterham, and could be in line to move into Fernandes’ office should he officially sell up and leave Leafield.

Schmidt Peterson confirms all-Canadian lineup of Hinchcliffe, Wickens

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The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team is going for a diet of denim, maple syrup, pace and politeness in its 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series lineup, with an all-Canadian pairing of James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens confirmed for next season.

Hinchcliffe was known to want a driver of Wickens’ caliber alongside him in the second seat after three less-than-fruitful seasons with James Jakes (2015), Mikhail Aleshin (2016) and a combination of drivers (Aleshin, Sebastian Saavedra, Jack Harvey) rotated through the second car the last three years.

Recent changes have brought them to this point and now leads them to becoming full-time teammates for the first time in a decade, since the defunct country-focused A1 Grand Prix series in 2007-2008.

Hinchcliffe has re-signed with Schmidt Peterson after three seasons with the team. His first was shortened due to his near life-threatening injuries sustained in an accident in practice for that year’s Indianapolis 500. A rapid and welcome recovery followed throughout the second half of 2015 before his comeback to action in 2016, with an Indianapolis 500 pole and a couple near-misses on wins that followed. In 2017, he won Round 2 at Long Beach but faltered in the second half of the year through a litany of mechanical woes and bad luck.

Wickens, meanwhile, faced an uncertain future when Mercedes-Benz announced earlier this year it would withdraw from DTM at the end of 2018. One of Hinchcliffe’s long-time friends, Wickens hasn’t raced full-time in North America in more than a decade since they were both in Formula Atlantic in 2007, at separate teams (Wickens at Red Bull Forsythe Racing and Hinchcliffe at Sierra Sierra Enterprises). As he pursued his Formula 1 dream and had a wealth of success in the junior series, he never got a proper shot, and has since gone onto several successful years with Mercedes in DTM.

A ride-swap between the two of them came together earlier this year where Wickens sampled Hinchcliffe’s No. 5 Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda at Sebring’s short course, while Hinchcliffe then flew to Italy to sample Wickens’ Mercedes-AMG C63 DTM after the St. Petersburg season opener. Hinchcliffe ended 13th in points in IndyCar, Wickens ninth in DTM this year, both with one win each during the year. Wickens also had a Friday to sample the No. 7 Lucas Oil SPM Honda at Road America this year, but had to relinquish the seat once Aleshin returned from a visa issue.

“Not only am I really excited to be able to say I’ll be back with SPM for next year and beyond, but I am also really looking forward to being teammates with one of my oldest friends,” said Hinchcliffe.

“Robbie and I grew up racing against one another, eventually took different paths, me staying in North America in open-wheel cars and him going off to Europe in sports cars, but it’s pretty neat that we both ended up here and we get to live our dream of being professional racing drivers, together on the same team.

“I think 2018 is going to be a great year for the SPM organization, from having Robbie here to the team’s new partnership with Honda and the 2018 aero kit; I just can’t wait to get back on track and bring some good results home for the Arrow Electronics crew.”

Wickens added: “This is an entirely new chapter to add to my racing career, and I am really excited for this opportunity that Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has given me.

“I think everyone knows the story by now that James and I grew up racing against one another in go karts, and to make it to the largest open-wheel racing series in North America together as teammates, it’s crazy to think about.

“I am very thankful for the six years I had with everyone at Mercedes and DTM; those are memories I will cherish forever. I can’t wait to truly see what the Verizon IndyCar Series is all about!”