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Fernandes outlines vision of Caterham F1
Posted By: James Allen  |  27 Nov 2011   |  2:02 pm GMT  |  42 comments

As Team Lotus embarks on its final F1 race before becoming Caterham F1 next season, team boss Tony Fernandes this morning laid out his vision for the team to a small group of media in the paddock at Interlagos.

There were many details to do with the company being in four main divisions and some of the initiatives were eye catching. For example the future of technical director Mike Gascoyne.

He and Fernandes see great potential in taking F1 composites and other technologies into aviation, an area where Fernandes has businesses (Air Asia and a share in Malaysian Airlines) and Gascoyne has a lot of interest.

“Mike Gascoyne will combine his role as CTO of Caterham F1 Team with that of CEO of Caterham Composites and will head up a company specialising in the composites industry. They are already working on projects across the aerospace, nautical, motorsport and roadcar industries,” said Fernandes.

It sounded from the way Fernandes was talking like Gascoyne might end up in that area of the business in the next few years after getting the racing team up to a certain level. He is two years into a five year contract with the team and has recruited some impressive names to join, such as the recent hiring of McLaren aero man John Iley. One imagines that as the team reaches a critical mass, the recruitment of a technical director to replace him will become one of Gascoyne’s targets.

Fernandes described 2012 as “a defining year for us”, they must move up into the midfield, but he drew a comparison with Premier League football, where his QPR team beat Chelsea to show that on any given week a smaller team can beat a big one, even if over a season they finish lower in the table. But in F1 this doesn’t happen. The last time it did was Sebastian Vettel’s win in the rain at Monza with Toro Rosso in 2008.

Fernandes feels that too much money is spent making F1 cars and that even the top teams would like to bring this down, if they can only all agree on big cuts as part of a process leading to a new Concorde Agreement.

He said he would “hold on to Heikki (Kovalainen) whatever” in the face of some attempts to poach him by bigger teams. “We deserve some credit for Heikki,” he added, “He loves it here and has flourished here. It’s a happy team. He wants to see how he’ll perform next year in a better car.”

But he was luke warm on Jarno Trulli, despite saying he had a contract to race in 2012. One senses that he is exploring alternatives and he has met several times with Red Bull young driver director Helmut Marko who has four drivers to place next year in two Toro Rosso seats and elsewhere. One could see the logic, for example, of them placing Dan Ricciardo there with Kovalainen as a benchmark.

Finishing 10th in the constructors’ championship is worth something like $20 million to the team so this will be a nervous afternoon in changeable conditions to see whether either HRT or Virgin can get a 12th place finish which would give them 10th in the constructors’.

Fernandes believes that an F1 team works best if it is aligned with a car company and having failed to do it with Lotus, he is bringing Caterham cars under the same roof as the F1 team, most likely at Leafield in Oxford. The company has opened offices in India and plans expansion into emerging markets in Asia and Eastern Europe where he believes there will be demand for affordable sports cars (£20-30k) which feature F1 derived technology. Although he did not say it, these are likely to feature 1.4 litre turbo engined hybrids, like F1 will use from 2014 onwards.

The GP2 and GP3 teams will continue as Caterham Racing.

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Any chance Rubens could end up here next year?


No I don’t think so. But Williams engineers really want Rubens to stay.


Was there any talk of expanding the Caterham road car line-up, or just continuing to plug-away with the 7?

I could see them developing and Elise-esque sports car (if for no other reason than to try to stick it to Lotus one last time!)


Check out Caterhams new car website…


Interesting, but no road car announcements I see (at least nothing with windscreen wipers).


Not so sure about these driver choices y’know. Team owners like Fernandes are in a bit of a lucky position at the moment with so many good drivers chasing too few seats. As happy with Heikki as he might be, I’d throw the field wide open for 2012 and land myself Kimi and Sutil. Speed, PR and experience – perfect!


I know you havent gotten out recently Howard (forgive the Hughes joke), but Kimi would blow a large portion of their budget just as a driver.

These teams are all about incremental step progress, and HRT and Lotus I think have done that this year. Virgin have stagnated to some extent but hopefully next year when they screw up and throw in the bin the CFD only design, they will benefit from Mclarens mighty technology,


“He loves it here and has flourished here. It’s a happy team. He wants to see how he’ll perform next year in a better car.”

Heikki already HAD a better car previously, only he showed no ability to make it fast and consistently beaten by Hamilton.

Why are all these mediocre drivers like Heikki, Trulli and Fishi highly praised and loved? Even the old man Barrichello is better than these three.


I think you are being a little bit unfair to Heikki here. He certainly could have, and should have, done better at McLaren, but it is good to put things in context too.

He had a troublesome start to his F1 career at Renault, but bounced back brilliantly during the latter half of his rookie year, clearly beating his much more experienced team mate Fisichella. He had a good start at McLaren, was on par on speed with Lewis and only bad luck prevented him from taking his first victory (for example, he made the fastest lap of the race in two of the first three races in 2008). In the fourth race of the season he had a big accident while leading the race due to tyre deflation, which surely affected his performances during the next few races. Together with continued bad luck (for example at Monaco) and McLaren’s decision to always fuel Lewis lighter than Heikki, giving him the advantage in quali, assured that Heikki was squarely beaten by Lewis during the rest of the season.

During his second season with McLaren, Lewis was the clear number one driver, and Heikki’s performances were not as high as they should’ve been. He has gotten his spirits up at Lotus and shows again that he can successfully compete with the best up there.


I like the way Fernandes and Team Lotus/Caterham go racing.

Yes they lost the good will of the Lotus name for next year through some pretty unpleasant tactics from Bahar, but I for one hope that they go from strength to strength.


Plucky is what I would call them. And everyone loves a plucky group of true racers (rather than venture capitalists [i.e. the ‘new’ Lotus team]).

I for one, would love to see Heikki take a win for Caterham in a few years (although I’m sure more likely to ride a unicorn to work).


F1 is no more an operation relies solely on sponsorship, one has to produce valued-added assets in order to survive. What TF has done is to build businesses to support his F1 ambition and also inter-connect them with the F1 Team to promote his companies which provides bread and butter.

Very healthy outlook indeed!

By the way, since when he owns a GP3 team?


Since the start of GP3.


Please point a link to me regarding Caterham / AirAsia GP3 team as I could not find it even in the official GP3 website.


Caterham don’t have GP3 team


I thought it was going to be 1.6 litre turbos in 2014?


I think it is the relative closeness, no the same engine. I hope the Caterham road car engine lasts longer than 2000 km before being ditched for a new one.


F1 tech with F1 reliability… not the best selling feature!


Fernandes is steering Caterham in the right direction, using heart and intelligence to do all the right things.

Bahar and Boullier, Antonov and Co. seem to be steering Lotus-Renault into oblivion, using their wallets before their hearts and minds. I hope they can turn it around, but Fernandes makes them look like morons.


Paul Di Resta comes with free Mercedes bits so could RIC come with discount gearboxes and KERS? Hmm.


KERS is Renault Sport F1. I don’t think they are pushing for any drivers at the moment.


I respect the future Caterham team very much. The effort they put in their first two seasons, their steady and significant progress etc. What still leaves me with very bad aftertaste is the whole Lotus thing which was very much unnecessary and in fact fueled by Tony as a vital part of his business strategy. He showed himself, especially during the trials, to be an extremely smart manipulator and to an extent a populist, in the worst political meaning.

Even his today’s emotional words about being ‘overjoyed’ with 10th sound like a straightforward lie, if one remembers that their target was seventh and 30-50 points. The line about good always winning because of defeating one penalty-hit Renault was also on the low. Another unnecessary PR stunt devised to manipulate emotions. He makes F1 teams and businesses rivalry something very personal and turns people at one another. And all of this because of money.


It was Bahar and Renault that fired the first salvos in this war. Fernandes has been nothing but respectable in the whole affair.

Outlandish predictions have always been part of Gazzers repertoire, so that’s a given (they even revised their predictions after the Barcelona update didn’t pan out).

Fernandes is about going racing, but there is no point to that if it’s not connected to business. He tried to get Lotus, and ended up with Caterham. Not a problem.

He’s not messing around and has a huge fan base because of it (for perspective, how many fans do you see wearing black and gold?)


Wish him the best. Enjoyed listening to him on BBC for a bit after the race. Remarkable how accessible and down-to-earth some very accomplished and very wealthy individuals like him can be.


I have to agree with several of the previous comments posted and feel like the way Tony Fernandes goes about his business in a realistic fashion, hiring good people and taking small, achievable steps for his team.

I couldn’t be happier to see him link-up with Caterham Cars for next season and too feel that Lotus missed out on a good marketing oppoortunity in partnering with Tony and his team which to me, is in stark contrast with the Renault team which have looked at sea this year.

Congratulations to Tony and the team on a job well done this year and securing 10th in the championship standings, I look forward to seeing the teams progress next season and in years to come.


James, you need to have your webmaster design a “like” and “dislike” option for comments. This one is definitely a “LIKE”.


I still can’t get my brain around the concept of the name Caterham as an F1 team. As an ex Caterhan racer, I have some affinity with the brand but it is so far removed from F1. I bet the vast majority of F1 fans will never have heard of Caterham although they have been the manufacturers of the iconic (Lotus)Seven since 1973! Perhaps 2012 will be a big year for Caterham with the chance of elevating the team into the F1 midfield and the new Caterham SP/300.R going into production.


And what does Red Bull energy drinks have to do with F1? Or Benneton clothes…


Isn’t that the point, though? The whole world will have heard of Caterham by this time next year. And if TF / MG can leverage some of the F1 technology in a Caterham road car, all the better. It seems like a superb move to me.


F1 needs more of this kind of guy.


Agreedi like almost everything about Good Lotus aka Caterham except I think they’d do well to get someone decent alongside Heikki. With regards to the rest of the team though, Tony has done a stellar job poaching top people from the top teams


Fernandes has possibly the best logic of all Team Owners at the moment. He has obvious drive to make his team (and underlying company) profitable, but also wants to win. He makes the other new teams look stupid.

However, it’s still a shame he couldn’t hold on to the Lotus name, as I feel the way Danny Bahar dealt with the situation made a mockery of the name, even if he had family backing.

Good luck to Fernandes.



At a time when Boullier is playing a juggling act with his drivers, Sir Frank and the boys moronically casting aside both experience (Rubens) and talent (Kimi), Ferrari continuing to moan about third cars and the backmarkers in complete dissaray, Fernandes looks brilliant.

Which I think he just might be. I really hope all his plans come together.


I could not agree more.

I was apprehensive at first but after the first race in 2010 it was clear these guys were here to race first and foremost. I also thought the “Lotus Racing” construction was an elegant way of reïntroducing a venerable brand to F1 without seeming exploitative.

The license meant that there was a connection with the other part of Chapman’s heritage, while remaining -like the original Team Lotus- very much a separate entity.

Also, because there was no real sponsorship, the car company wasn’t just paying to slap its badge on someone else’s work. That way of operating is al fine and well for purveyors of consumer goods like Marussia, Red Bull or Spyker but it is most undignified for one of the few surviving companies that were founded purely for racing.

It was sad that Bahar decided to force the issue and withdrew the license over some minor issue with the merchandise and most ludicrously “damaging the image of the brand”. At that point Fernandes had no choice (because of commitments and investments he had made) but to do a deal with David Hunt and resurrect Team Lotus.

I thought Lotus Racing was classy and respectful precisely because it did not try to pretend to be a continuation of something that had run its course but rather a successor, a new chapter. So when the bridges with Group were burned it was good Fernandes move on to something more constructive and positive rather than to wait for Bahar to run the company in the ground and take over later.


What a great team, but I really think they could do with a new young driver to replace Jarno. Having said that, the last thing they need is someone who is taking risks in their first season in an attempt to shine.

I can’t imagine that Heikki will stay there forever though – surely sometime soon he’ll get an offer from another team, though he’ll need to get a point or two next season.


Though I agree and would really, really like to see a younger driver take Trulli’s seat I have to admit it makes a certain kind of sense to keep him on the books if Heikki is being seriously pursued by upper midfield teams.

If they were to lose both drivers next year they’d not only lose two experienced set of hands (not a disaster with the likes of Heidfeld, Barrichello and just maybe even Sutil out of a drive), but also continuity and reliable benchmarks.

Gascoigne has found Trulli’s consistency useful as a benchmark for development since their Toyota-days. Losing both drivers would make next year’s car harder to judge (not overall -they’ve got a stopwatch for that- but in terms of specifics).

And if Heikki were to leave, gauging the (qualifying) performance of a Ricciardo, Senna, Grosjean or whoever to Trulli’s would give a good picture of that driver’s skill and progression.


Bit surprised by all the clamour for Heikki. I love the guy, his attitude and his personality…. but he was hopelessly outclassed in the McLaren. Has age improved him that much?


Excellent point MAS.

I hope they keep both drivers next season for all the reasons you brought up.

Maybe in 2013 they can look for a youngster to put in the car, Trulli can’t drive forever.


Leafield factory is big or medium , Caterham Car, F1, GP2 and Windtunnel in one roof ..


It sounds like it will need planning permission, which is what is delaying the announcement


more news will coming soon.

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