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Caterham boss Tony Fernandes: “We’ve learned through failure”
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Posted By: James Allen  |  21 Jan 2014   |  12:50 pm GMT  |  75 comments

Caterham boss Tony Fernandes has said that his team’s failure over the last four years, particularly 2013 where the team finished last out of 11 teams, has made his team stronger.

Announcing his driver line up of Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson at a launch event in the team’s Leafield HQ this morning, Fernandes said,

“It’s a critical season. Most people have written us off. From failure you draw some strength.

“Frankly we have to try to do something different. We haven’t performed as a team since I started this team and we have taken something of a radical approach.

“It is crucial this year that we fight for points, for my motivation. It’s no fun going around the world and coming last; nor for anyone in this team.

“We’ve done extremely well on the business side, Caterham cars and so on. We don’t have to be world champions to sell cars, but we want to do better.

“F1 is a damn difficult sport: I underestimated it. We made some mistakes, we tried to jump too fast and if we’d been more conservative we’d have been fighting in the midfield.”

Speaking of the opportunity offered by the radical rule changes on the technical side, Fernandes said, “It’s an advantage for us at the beginning, then after that obviously the teams with more finance will do more.’

On the drivers, Fernandes said that his team has taken decisions with a commercial side to them, taking note of the nationality of the drivers and their marketability, but he had turned down pay drivers with big budgets in a shift of emphasis for the team.

“We could have got two big pay drivers but we have moved away from that,” he said. “Kamui is a great driver and its good to have an Asian driver in F1.

“We have taken a “total F1″ view.”

While Ericsson does bring a budget, which has clearly led to his opportunity, the inclusion of the highly rated Robin Frijns is exciting for the team and Fernandes said that there was a lot of discussion on whether to throw him in as a race driver,

“Robin is the most exciting young driver and we hope that we have a long relationship,” he said. “There was a lot of debate about bringing him in straight away, like a McLaren has done (with Kevin Magnussen) but we erred on the side of caution.”

Caterham has made a significant investment in his HQ and resources and announced today that it will soon begin testing in the Toyota wind tunnel in Cologne, which will allow them to work at 60% scale; something the leading teams have been doing for a few years. McLaren and Ferrari used the Toyota tunnel last year due to problems with their own 60% scale tunnels.

This will allow Caterham to work in finer detail on aerodynamics and given that the power unit from Renault is the same as the one used by leading teams like Red Bull and Lotus and will thus be what it is, the team hopes its greater aerodynamic capability will allow it to hoist itself up the grid.

It is a more expensive thing to do, but the tyre models are more representative. You get closer to reality with 60% than with 50%.

Technical director Mark Smith said that Toyota is a “world class facility” and with the cut of wind tunnel hours in the Sporting Regulations to 30 hours per week, this made the decision make sense for Caterham.

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75 Comments
  1. ChrisJson says:

    James!
    This is a very proud day for Sweden!
    Do you know if Marcus and Kamui have choosen their numbers yet?

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes Kamui is 10 and Ericsson is 9

      The numbers will be on the top of their helmets, visible from the on board cameras

  2. chris green says:

    fernandes quotes

    ‘we have taken something of a radical approach.’

    ‘if we’d been more conservative we’d have been fighting in the midfield.”

    talk about confused. i think the team has been a big disappointment. too much chopping and changing of drivers – all of whom have probably done a pretty good job considering what they’ve had to work with.

    i don’t think a f1 team can operate successfully as the mere appendage of a budget airline.

    1. ian says:

      It is also the least impressive part of ‘Caterham’ – the road cars are pretty special, with a strong brand. I wonder if there has ever been a car company where it’s least exciting cars are it’s racing cars?!

      1. Toby Coulson says:

        Being a Caterham owner myself I can only heartily concur with what you have said. Personally I think the marque has suffered due to the failure of its F1 arm.

    2. Vlad says:

      There’s less loyalty in F1 than ever now. Teams like Caterham think too much in the short term. These drivers will probably be replaced next season. Van der Garde should have kept his race seat – what did he do wrong??
      And Kovalainen should have had a drive also.

      1. Simmo says:

        I agree, although I am happy to see Kamui back :D

      2. Paul Kirk says:

        And Rubens too!
        PK.

      3. LeJimster says:

        Kovalainen wanted to race and be paid on his driving skills alone, in all honesty with the cars Caterham have been putting together, there are other drivers who have done a similar job to Heikki and they bring finances with them. At the same time he refused to look for any sponsorship as if it’s a dirty thing.

        Heikki is a nice chap, but I think it was right for Tony to look at other drivers and I’m happy he chose Kobayashi, who isn’t bringing that much money, but is much more eager to do whats needed to stay in F1 unlike Heikki.

      4. None of their drivers showed much promise last year. Pic, VDG and Kovy were all disappointing. Kovy, more for his comments regarding pay drivers than his actual driving (which wasn;t too bad in Austin).

        Ericsson is an unknown quantity, so better give him the chance to prove his worth than keep an average VDG just for the sake of it. Not all FR3.5 champions are equal after all.

        Kobayashi is an excellent choice though.

  3. Andrew Carter says:

    Kobayashi, didn’t see that coming. Ericson has always been quite quick but never really stepped up to title contender in lower formula’s and I’m glad they’re taking on Frijns, he’s a propper talent and was in real danger of falling through the cracks.

  4. Clarks4WheelDrift says:

    It’s still surprising to see a Caterham statement that the 2013 McLaren and Ferrari were developed with the Toyota wind tunnel being presented as such a positive thing.

    They hardly set the track alight with their 2013 aero development unlike Bull, Lotus, even Sauber. Maybe it is better at highlighting the aero errors I suppose.

    1. Kay says:

      If they used the Toyota wind tunnel and go to where either Ferrari or McLaren were in the Constructors, than not used it and be where they are, they’d definitely prefer to have used to wind tunnel =)

  5. Dan says:

    James,

    Whatever happened to Mike Gascoyne? he seemed to disappear to nowhere.

    1. James Allen says:

      Saw him this morning – he’s off sailing again soon.

      He works on other areas of Caterham activity

    2. Kay says:

      Probably better off with him not touching F1 side of the Caterham operation. That guy has achieved nothing ever!

      1. Timmay says:

        Agree completely – he is epic fail sauce on Formula 1

  6. Robin M says:

    Looking forward to seeing if Caterham can hit the midfield this season. Great to see Frijns given a role, best young driver out there, hope he gets a race in 2014.

  7. Grabsplatter says:

    Welcome back,Kamui. We’ve missed you.

    1. TomM says:

      I agree – he’s always been one of my favourite drivers. Let’s hope the Caterham is good enough this year to let us have a decent glimpse of his talent.

    2. Spyros says:

      Hear-hear! Best news I’ve heard all winter.

  8. Anil Parmar says:

    Delighted to see Kamui back :D

    I hope one day we see him fighting at the front of the pack as he’s just so exciting to watch. He reminds me of Sato, only he can keep the car on the track.

    1. Howard P says:

      and overtake…

  9. Phil R says:

    Does Caterham have a budget fully covered by prize money and sponsors, or does it rely on Fernandez plugging the gap as a sponsorship from the car company, air asia etc?

    If F1 turns into an engine formula this year and the Renault is ahead of the Ferrari, they could easily pick off Sauber, and if on the odd day they out qualify a Ferrari it would be worth its weight in gold in terms of marketing publicity for the car company in asia, unlikely though it would be to happen.

  10. yassin says:

    I am very happy to see Kamui return, he is an exciting attacking driver so his presents should make the back of the grid interesting.

    I must however voice my dismay that the announcements means Di Reista is out of F1, I am shocked that he scored 19 more points than Sutil yet could not land a seat.

    This means to stay in F1 you need MONEY or need to get on the podium, in other words help sustain the team or WIN.

    1. Adrian Newey Jnr says:

      Other journalists are reporting that whilst PdR scored points, his off field persona did not “inspire the team”.

  11. JEZ Playense says:

    A fairly frank and honest interview, and Mr Fernandes came over as a guy down but very much not out!

    Proof will be in the results though. Boldl claims are expected at press conferences, and talk is the only cheap thing in F1

    1. JEZ Playense says:

      Oops that should say Bold!

  12. Paul H says:

    Really hope that they manage some points this year. They should be helped by the reset of regulations, not expecting to see a Brawn style surge but just a decent showing. I think it is forgotten the difference in budgets for the lower teams. The new powertrains should hopefully bring back some of the enjoyable element of unreliability, at least for the early races. People complain about so many aspects of the changes made to F1 over the last decade or two, but for me the fact cars are now relatively guaranteed to finish bar an accident is the biggest difference.

    Looks like Caterham have dropped the yellow from their corporate image and race team colours too.

    1. vvipkho says:

      Caterham United flag

    2. vvipkho says:

      this is page color will changing soon to same as caterham livery ..

  13. Andrew M says:

    I wonder if by “underestimated” he was talking about money…

    It is interesting though that Kobayashi has managed to get a seat, it does seem to be a change of policy compared to last year when Heikki was shown the door due to lack of funding. I know Kamui had raised some budget to try and help get him a seat in 2013, I wonder if any of that has survived?

  14. BrawnGP says:

    Yes Finally Caterham have enlisted the help of an exciting driver to push the back markers.
    Koba was always exciting to watch and i am sure he will mop the floor with the rear end competition.

    Cant wait for 2014 to start, so many
    interesting drivers and teams to watch, i have the feeling its going to be an amazing season.

  15. Wade Parmino says:

    Disappointed that Alex Rossi didn’t get a drive. What happened to Kovaleinen, he seemed sure he would be driving for Caterham.

    1. Scott says:

      I think Heiki 2 drives for Lotus probably hurt his chances of an F1 seat. I think he would have been better off not taking those drives.

  16. Random 79 says:

    Good news for Kobi to be back in F1, although if I’m brutally honest I would have liked to see him join a more established team.

  17. Ross says:

    I must admit I have taken a bit of disliking to Caterham since they joined F1. It was very clear to me they went about their business the wrong way and made far too many public predictions about the pace of their newest care that it made me chuckle to see them finish behind Marussia last season despite being on a much bigger budget.

    However, I like this line up a lot. It is wonderful to see Koby back on the grid and I currently live in Sweden so it will be interesting to see how Eriksson gets on. Sure he brings a lot of money but if that means Koby gets a seat AND Frijns finds a seat in F1 without a budget then it can only be a good thing for the team and the sport in general. I firmly believe he is the best driver outside F1 and I am delighted to see him getting a role in F1.

    Well done Caterham.

  18. Random 79 says:

    Caterham recognise that they’ve made mistakes and so are looking change their approach so that they can hit their targets this year and bag their first points.

    Déjà vu anyone?

  19. ManOnWheels says:

    I wonder what it is that has been so radical. The car seemed to be rather conventional, the team didn’t try to only rely on CFD, they haven’t had their car built externally by some company like Dallara, they started with experienced drivers to get proper feedback. That all looks pretty conservative to me.
    James: Any chance to dig a bit deeper into this?

  20. Joel says:

    Realistic talk from the boss; best wishes for the team. Would like to see Frijns atleast in a couple of races, if not regularly.
    Hope Fernandes does not do a disappearing act if their target does not become a reality.

  21. Kay says:

    “Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.” – Arnold Schwarzenegger

    You’ll get there, Tony.

  22. KK says:

    Even as a Swede, I would rather go with Kamui and Frinjs. That we would be a very good lineup.

  23. AlexK says:

    The time is right for Caterham. They have gone through big changes in the previous 4 years; personnel, drivers and last season possibly the biggest change with their team base. Kobayashi brings a good amount of experience to help point the engineers in the right direction plus a good benchmark for the new boys. All looks positive right now to me.

    1. James Clayton says:

      I’ve been believing that the time is right for Caterham for the last 3 years. I’m going to manage expectations this time around! :)

  24. MartinC says:

    Great news that Kamui is back. A great fighter :-) I feel strangely sorry for the increasing number of pay drivers as they seem to have very fleeting careers in F1. Only the slowest teams take pay drivers so their chances of making a mark and an enduring career is very remote.

  25. Ben G says:

    Very glad Kamui is back.

    Good that Caterham have got a proper driver at last.

  26. All revved-up says:

    Yippee. Kobayashi is back.

    I know the argument about giving young talent a chance to display their skill. But I have a soft spot for Kamui and his exciting but prone to over ambition driving.

    He does help build brand awareness in Asia for their car business.

  27. Leslie D'Amico says:

    Alexander Rossi….????

    1. Leen says:

      caterham GP2 driver

    2. SennaDaSilva says:

      Rossi will stay as 3rd driver besides Frijns. Frijns is 3rd driver when Rossi will do GP2 races. So let’s say Rossi will be the 2nd 3rd driver… :-)

  28. Jonathan Cooper says:

    Really excited about Caterham this season. I hope they get their maiden points, they deserve a handful at least!

  29. zombie says:

    Happy to see Kobi back. I am surprised they overlooked Heikki and Charles Pic. I thought Charles did quite well. Guess it was down to $$ in the end.

    1. Random 79 says:

      I think Caterham were considering Heikki, but he kind of shot himself in the foot when he went and did those couple of races for Lotus.

  30. John M says:

    It’s really time for Caterham to take a real step forward. They’ve had enough time to learn the ropes. Now, I want to see them start fighting for points. Hopefully, the technical changes this year provide them a way to move into the mid-field.

  31. Paul D says:

    Frankly it’s make or break for Caterham this year.

    They wrote off 2013 to put all their eggs in the 2014 basket and if they don’t get any points / results this season I suspect Tony will walk away.

  32. ManOnWheels says:

    I am surprised that they didn’t keep at least one driver as a reference point. I use to think that changing both drivers is usually a mistake.

  33. Sri says:

    James, how come you missed the more important news item:

    http://www.crash.net/f1/news/199622/1/progress-crucial-to-caterham-future-says-fernandes.html

    In fact, Tony is hinting that Caterham may not turn up in 2015. Also he raises a valid question there asking F1 to ponder over the costs that make it prohibitive to be in F1 for smaller teams. These smaller teams are important breeding/training grounds for future F1 stars and without them the supply line of F1 stars will be lost. It is absolutely important for these teams to be in F1.

    1. James Allen says:

      I did mention his quote that he will consider quitting F1 if they don’t improve

      I covered TF’s thoughts on F1 and budgets extensively in article and podcast before Christmas and he says exactly the same things again here

    2. Fireman says:

      This pretty much confirms no Caterham in F1 2015.

  34. Simmo says:

    “Tony Fernandes has said that his team’s failure over the last four years, particularly 2013 where the team finished last out of 11 teams, has made his team stronger”

    All very well saying that to the media and fans, but it is pretty obvious that success would have made them even more stronger.

  35. Timmay says:

    Hmm I wonder why they have failed so far? Mike Gascoigne that’s why. The guy has dragged every team down & completed every contract on either gardening leave or been sacked – Tyrrell, Jordan, Benetton, Renault, Toyota, Caterham – a litany of both big & small budget teams that went downhill or stayed still until he left. A prime example of being over rated.

    1. MikeP says:

      Totally agree, Mike Gascoigne has proved time and time again he’s not only difficult to work with but massively overrated.

      Best let him sail off into the sunset in my opinion.
      Bon voyage Mike

  36. All revved-up says:

    There’s a solution to Caterham’s last place problem. It’s RB.

    Ross Brawn!

  37. SennaDaSilva says:

    Shame Tony did not grab his chance to put Frijns next to Kobayashi. Frijns is the best young driver out there, even more successfull then Vettel before he entered F1.

    In the end the money from Sweden made Caterham deside to play save and go for the money. Still then I think van der Garde would have been a better choice.

    When Tony would have taken the risk to put Frijns in the raceseat, Frijns would have payed back with good results, and could be sold to a big team for a great amount of money. I (and many others) believe Frijns is a next generation Vettel.

  38. Paul Kirk says:

    I notice over the years many teams seem to have problems with their wind tunnels! I wonder why they are so trubblesome? What sort of “problems” do they have, and how do they fix them?
    PK.

    1. Shane says:

      I’m certainly no expert, but Ferrari were reporting “correlation” problems. They develop in CFD and verify in the wind tunnel and expect X number of points of downforce, but when they get to the track they would only get X-. They couldn’t figure out how to get the results from the wind tunnel to correlate to the real world, at least not with the precision required to reach the top step of the F1 podium. One would think that with the respective road car programs they could sort out their wind tunnel issues outside the limits of F1 “fan on” time restrictions. I imagine this is like many F1 issues, when you are talking about 10ths or 100ths of a second differences the solutions become infinitely more difficult to find.

  39. Joe S says:

    It’s nice to see Kobayashi back but it’s a shame it’ll be a bit of a nothing year for him as he’ll be unlikely to regularly racing anyone other than his team-mate and Marussia.

    Hopefully he can do as well as to be expected and can move back up the grid.

  40. Franco says:

    Surely with all of TF business and let’s not forget his football I fear this team really lacks a Team Principle, a leader that can actually pull together the team in the right direction.
    My gutt feeling is telling me Marussia will do better mainly due to Ferrari assistance.

  41. Adrian Newey Jnr says:

    James – a number of teams have taken big steps forward through technical partnerships with larger teams. Force India / McLaren being a good example. Did Tony suggest why they haven’t adopted this approach?

  42. Jim says:

    Nice to see Mr. Excitement Kamui Kobayashi back in the saddle – this is a real bonus for the Asian component since Japan for example drives such a massive segment of the automotive market. The frustration of the Caterham boss rings loud and clear in the complete absence of a budget cap, with McLaren today reporting the biggest budget of their tenure in F1 thus far – however that did not get them onto the podium even once in 2013. Formula 1 needs more than a valve job – it needs a complete overhaul -. So far we’ve had to endure the spectre of an FIA chief official playing with girls dressed like Nazis, we now have the F1 CEO indicted on charges in Germany, we have had to endure the spectacle of ‘Crashgate’, we’re looking at DRS, electric rocket boosters, engine downsizing, gazillions in engineering research and development hamstrung by the tire whims of any given day, we’ve got 17 year olds almost buying rides, only placed at the back of the queue of pay drivers for the short term, we’ve got a sport where a really legitimate unassisted passing maneuver makes international headlines, the spoils of war are not divided equally amongst all the players so that the playing field can be duly levelled, and we’ve got the FIA making up rules as they go along so if Caterham can’t quite make it on points well, we’ll double the points for a race in lieu of sharing the cash for mechanical upgrades. Yes folks, F1 is a mess and sadly the entertainment value now lies in the soap opera aspects of what was once a real racing sport.

  43. Thompson says:

    I cannot understand why these guys don’t employ Damon Hill in the development of thier cars. I know some of you will be bewildered by this suggestion, but he has a talent for it.

    The Williams, the Arrows and the Jordan all benefited from his input and in this day of simulators who knows. But anyone who could set up the equivalent of a Caterham to dominate a race to within a few laps to the finish…… If I was in charge of one of those back of the grid teams it’s sSome thing I’d look into.

  44. James Clayton says:

    James

    With the new driver numbering system what happens if reserve drivers are called to race? Do they choose their own number, or race with the number of the driver that they are replacing?

  45. Tyler says:

    Good on Fernandes for doing what any of these teams should have done last year… sign Kobayahsi! For hell sakes he is only the most exciting driver to come along in many many years… sometimes you are sure F1 is trying to shoot itself in the foot… for the good of the sport this guy should be on the damn track! Great news!

  46. Shane says:

    I am so excited that Kamui is back! This is the best news to come out of F1 in a while. I am equally pleased to see a team choosing talent over sponsor dollars. F1 simply cannot be the pinnacle of motorsport if it is pay-to-race. Now someone needs to open a seat up for DiResta.

  47. Marty says:

    Well it sounds like TF has had just about enough. I’ve often wondered of the resolve it must take for Caterham to continue fielding a team. Surely the years of racing at the back of the grid and without scoring even a single point will resonate through the team and up the ladder to ownership.
    I applaud Caterham loudly and wish them their finest success this year.

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