The future of Caterham F1 Team looks to be coming under increasing threat after some of the team’s goods were seized and removed from its factory in England today.
Following the sale of the team by former owner Tony Fernandes back in July, speculation about Caterham’s future has been rife despite the new management claiming that the team was safe and already preparing for the 2015 season.
There have been a number of departures from Leafield over the past three months, prompting a group of released employees to launch legal action against their former employer.
The state of affairs seemed to be summed up when team principal Christijan Albers – the man drafted in to save Caterham – resigned after just two months in charge.
However, the situation appears to have become far more grave today as the team had many of its assets seized by High Court enforcement officers.
According to The Sheriffs Office, the following goods have been seized:
- Caterham F1 test car (2013)
- Caterham F1 car parts (due for Japan 2014)
- Full size 6 DOF motion platform F1 simulator
- Caterham F1 steering wheels
- F1 wheels with tires
- High quality drilling & machining equipment
- Caterham & Lotus F1 memorabilia
- Various pit lane equipment including jacks, pumps and starters
- TVs, monitors and other goods and equipment
These goods will be sold at a public auction.
The team was quick to deny that its future was at risk, insisting that operations at base in Leafield and in Japan were still going as normal.
“There have been unfounded and unsubstantiated rumours concerning actions against 1MRT [1 Malaysia Racing Team], the entrant and owner of CaterhamF1,” a statement from the team read.
“An action was threatened yesterday against a supplier company to 1MRT. This company is not owned by 1MRT and it has no influence over the entry of CaterhamF1 or the entrant.
“Also contrary to uncontrolled rumours, all operations are currently in place at Leafield and the race team is doing its preparation in Japan.”
However, the team had been promising major upgrades for this weekend’s race at Suzuka, believing that they would give it a shot at beating nearest rivals Marussia and Sauber with the view to moving off the foot of the constructors’ championship table.
Now that said upgrades have been seized though, these hopes have been scuppered, leaving drivers Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson facing a difficult weekend at Suzuka.
The more concerning question is how grave the problems at Caterham are. It has been common knowledge for some time that the team is facing an uphill struggle to survive, but new team principal Manfredi Ravetto seemed optimistic about the future when speaking in a recent interview.
“I think we have done a small miracle to bring it to where it is,” he told the F1 website. “I think we also did a small miracle by improving the performance and being ahead of Marussia in terms of speed and very close to Lotus and Sauber. We are set to deliver miracles.”
The sale of Caterham by Tony Fernandes has been very complex. The Malaysian businessmen denied for months that he was set to sell before summing up his venture in three words: “F1 hasn’t worked”. The team was then sold to a consortium made up of Swiss and Middle Eastern investors in a deal brokered by former Spyker and HRT boss Colin Kolles.
However, this did not include all of Caterham’s motorsport interests. The Caterham Racing GP2 team was set up as an offshoot to the F1 outfit, but it is no longer associated with it despite still working on the same site. Therefore, Caterham Racing continues to operate as normal.
The original young driver programme, of which American driver Alexander Rossi was a member, disappeared with Fernandes though, prompting Rossi to move to Marussia where he now works as a test driver.
Although the team has insisted that it is business as normal, all eyes will be on its activity across the course of this weekend’s race at Suzuka and where it goes from there.
Just as the warnings signs were there when HRT F1 Team folded at the end of the 2012 season after just three seasons racing, alarm bells are now ringing louder than ever for Caterham.