Caterham is to embark on an “aggressive employment plan” to aid its push up the grid when they finally move from their Norfolk base of the last three years to the heart of F1’s ‘Motorsport Valley’ in Leafield following next week’s Hungarian GP.
The team’s plans to move into the UK F1 equivalent of Silicon Valley in Oxfordshire were announced at the start of the year with the team taking over the larger former Arrows and Super Aguri factory in order to house the two key areas of the expanding Caterham Group under one roof – the F1 team and Caterham Cars.
The team had targeted an August move and on Monday evening announced that renovation work at the facility was now underway with the first phase of relocation to take place at the start of next month’s summer break with the F1 team to return from the Germany-Hungary back-to-back straight to their new base.
Although the team have managed to entice some established F1 technical names to the team since forming as Lotus Racing in late 2009 – most recently the highly-respected former McLaren aerodynamist John Iley – technical director Mark Smith admits their hitherto Norfolk location had proved a handicap in staff recruitment given the need for any new members of the team to relocate.
“In common with most of the current employees of the F1 team I have moved back nearer to our new base in Leafield and I am very excited about the future this gives us, not just for the F1 team but Caterham Group as a whole,” Smith said. “The Leafield site is perfect for our needs in F1, GP2 and all our interests in motorsport now and in the future, and it also gives us the platform to expand into any industry that sees that we can provide new ideas and world-class performance.
“One of the immediate benefits of the move is in attracting people to come and work with us. Since I joined the team in 2011 I have been aware that there have been people we wanted to bring to Norfolk who were reluctant to move their families out of ‘motorsport valley’ where all the UK based F1 teams, and their associated supply chains and partners, are based.
“There has never been an issue with people not sharing our vision, being as excited about our future as everyone who works with Tony [Fernandes] and Riad [Asmat] are, but it was undeniable that geography may have prevented us from expanding at quite the rate we want to. Now Leafield is open we have no barriers. We are in the heart of the motorsport industry, not only in the UK but worldwide, and we have an aggressive employment plan in place that will help us keep moving up the grid.”
With Caterham Cars to move to Leafield in due course, Caterham will retain its existing Hingham base where Caterham Composites will remain situated. Group owner Tony Fernandes believes the firm has reached its “most important point in our development so far” and having its two major operations under one roof will take it to the next level.
“More than 200 of the F1 team staff are making the move to Oxfordshire over the next few weeks and when we have finished the refurbishment, in late October 2012, we will have a facility that will put us on a par with the teams we are trying to catch in F1,” he said.
“Importantly, it will also give us the base we need to allow Caterham Group to achieve the impossible for many years to come. This is why I am so excited about what we have ahead of us, and this is why I am now dreaming of bigger, better and more ambitious plans than ever before.”