Caterham administrators in talks with possible new buyers

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The administrators currently in charge at Caterham F1 Team have confirmed in a new statement that they are in talks with a number of possible buyers for the financially-stricken outfit.

Following a dispute between former owner Tony Fernandes and possible buyers Engavest, the team entered administration last week and was taken over by administrator Finbarr O’Connell of Smith and Williamson.

Caterham will not be racing in the United States this weekend, nor will it take part in the Brazilian Grand Prix in one week’s time. Marussia will also miss both races after hitting its own financial strife following the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi.

In a statement issued on Friday, the administrators confirmed that it was still hoping to get the investment in place for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in three weeks’ time. Failing that, it will work to get the team on the grid for 2015.

“We remain in conversation with a number of credible, interested parties regarding the sale of the historic Caterham F1 racing team,” the statement reads.

“Our current strategy is to seek a buyer that will allow the team to compete in the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi on 23 November 2014 and we are doing all we can to make that happen. However, if a deal cannot be finalised in time, then the strategy is to secure a buyer to allow the team to compete in the 2015 F1 championship.

“We are working with our specialist Corporate Finance team to manage the sale process and we have received several expressions of interest from parties with the financial strength to fund a F1 race team. These conversations are ongoing. We believe this approach will maximise the assets of the broader Caterham F1 team and so enable the best outcome for creditors and other stakeholders, including employees of 1MRT.”

The statement also revealed that the employees at Caterham F1 Team actually work for 1 Malaysia Racing Team, Tony Fernandes’ company, and not the firm that has entered administration, Caterham Sports Limited.

“Staff at Caterham’s Leafield site in Oxfordshire are employees of 1MRT, which is a separate entity to CSL,” it reads. “Staff were advised in writing that from 8 October 2014, their employment had been transferred from CSL to 1MRT. This took place before the current administrators of CSL were appointed.

“As administrators to CSL, we are doing our best to resolve matters as smoothly as possible and for the benefit of creditors and other stakeholders. This remains a highly complex situation.

“We understand that in recent weeks there has been a lack of communication between 1MRT and staff at the Leafield site. The administrators of CSL are therefore mindful of the uncertainty facing 1MRT’s employees and their families and are doing their best to address this.”

For the time being, the uncertainty at Caterham is set to continue. O’Connell is set to travel to Austin this weekend for the United States Grand Prix to provide updates on the search for a buyer, but unless one is found soon, Caterham’s hopes of survival may be all but over.

Caterham drivers Marcus Ericsson and Kamui Kobayashi have come to the race in Austin despite not racing, with Ericsson conducting work for Swedish television as his F1 hopes are put on hold.

NBC/NBCSN SCHEDULE FROM UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX

NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
McLaren Racing
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As Formula E enters their ninth season and McLaren Racing is set to compete in last year’s championship winning car, Ian James is passionate about pushing electric motorsports forward at a critical stage as race technology begins surpassing that of the street cars.

Midseason, McLaren acquired the assets of the Mercedes-EQ team as they were already on their way to winning a second consecutive championship. With those assets in place and coming off a successful debut in the Extreme E series, James is set to usher in a new era in electric car racing.

Last week’s announcement that Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast behind the wheel of the NEOM McLaren Formula E team was the last piece of the puzzle.

McLaren’s electric portfolio is building with the Formula E team coming one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that series with growing pains during the first three of five rounds. Rounds 4 and 5 were a completely different matter with the team crossing the finish line first in Chile before being assessed a time penalty.

In the final round in Uruguay, they scored an elusive podium.

“McLaren kicked off the season in Extreme E at the beginning of this year, so our first [electric] race took place Neom, actually out in Saudi,” NEOM McLaren Racing Team Principal James told NBC Sports. “At the time, we were in very early discussions about opportunities with the Formula E team. I actually went out there to meet with Zak [Brown, CEO McLaren Racing] and that was my first taste of Extreme E.

“Since the transition, I joined them in Chile in Atacama Desert, and then Uruguay last weekend. [The second-place finish was] a lovely way to round out the season. The fact that they got that podium. It was very well deserved. It’s a great team and a great series actually. It’s just so very different from anything else. The team’s done a great job in getting set up, and it’s nice now to, we’re trying to use that momentum that we’ve got from Uruguay to get us into next season when it kicks off next year, which will be great. I think we’re mid-March is looking like the first race, so a little bit of time to get things prepped for that.”

 

James McLaren Formula E
The NEOM Mclaren Racing Formula E team was created through the acquisition of last year’s championship car from Mercedes-EQ. – McLaren Racing

Synergies exist between the single seater and rally series. Lessons learned about battery power and sustainability in the electric SUV carry over so long as one is mindful of keeping focus on the individual needs and nuances of each series.

Especially now that electric racing technology has caught up, and is ready to surpass, the existing technology that has gone into building street cars.

When internal combustion engines gained the upper hand soon after automobiles were invented, racing paced alongside. The pressure of competition pushed the development of their commercial equivalents. The same has not necessarily been true of electric cars. Street cars were not designed to undergo the same stress as racecars – and that vulnerability showed up on the racetrack.

“Formula E has come along a long way,” James said. “I think one of the most notable developments is in the battery technology. In Gen 1, you had the drivers jumping from one car to another car midrace because the battery technology and capacity simply wasn’t where it needed to be to do the full distance. That obviously changed in Gen 2 and we saw a power increase as well to the 250 kilowatts.

“Now going to Gen 3, we have 350 kilowatts in a smaller battery. But that means that we’re relying on the regeneration of energy and for that reason, we’ve got also the opportunity to regenerate on the front axle as well as the rear axle now. So, there’s all sorts of things that are developing in the right direction.

“In terms of throttle response, actually, we’re now in a situation with electric racing and the motors that it’s instantaneous. And one of the advantages of electric over combustion engine is that the torque is instantaneous as well, so that gives you a lot more room to play with.”

No matter the power source, racing has always been about resource management. Drivers and teams select tire strategies they believe produce the fastest elapsed time and fuel conservation comes into play.

On one hand, electric racing is the same, but there is a critical difference. With the battery as both the power source and an integral part of the engine, there are multiple reasons to manage it.

In electric racing, the brain of the car is the software – and that is where James sees the greatest room for advancement.

“As we are working with our drivers and engineers – and start to look at functionality to improve our efficiency and our performance, that’s something we’ll continue to push because that development is open throughout the season,” James said. “That’s going to be our focus going forward and provides enough of a challenge for us to get our teeth into.

“What’s going to be fascinating is as Formula E continues, is to really look at which areas of development on the car are going to be the most relevant and ensuring that we can focus on those together with the manufacturers so we continue and use the series as a platform for technical development that can then feed back into the road car side of things as well.

“At the end of the day, that’s what motorsports always been, a very powerful tool for, and I see Formula E as no exception.”

James McLaren Formula E
Jake Hughes and Rene Rast were chosen for their ability to drive fast and execute the necessary strategy for energy management. – McLaren Racing

Selecting Rast and Hughes as McLaren’s Formula E drivers was not simply because they know how to drive fast. James believes both drivers have the mental aptitude to execute energy management strategies throughout the race and squeeze maximum performance.

“As with many other motorsports, you’ve got a certain amount of energy that you’re able to deploy during the race and the management of that energy is absolutely crucial,” James said. “What we’re seeing typically in electric motorsports now is the hardware side of things. The efficiencies that we’re seeing in the powertrain as a whole, they’re getting up to the sort of 96%, 97%, 98% efficiency, so the gains that you get through that further and further become more marginal.”

With much more room for improvement, software is a different matter. To make the best decisions, the drivers need data, and that is where James believes McLaren Formula E will make their greatest impact.

“And then you really switch that focus to the software and that’s where you’re going to see the most the most improvement and the most gains,” James continued. “It’s then using that software to ensure that you’re deploying the energy in the most efficient manner during race, and thereby giving the driver the most performance. And that’s something which is incredibly complicated, but I find it a fascinating area to work in.

“The benefit of being involved in racing is you can really push the envelope in a way that you can’t do on road cars. And I think that that’s where that value comes in. It means that you accelerate the development a lot quicker. We will get ahead of the curve – and we are getting ahead of the curve now – and that will mean that the electric motorsports remain part of the overall development process.

“The key to that is also making sure that the racing’s exciting and fun for the fans. If we can, we can tick both of those boxes, then it’s got a very bright future ahead of it.”