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Behind the Caterham deal with Aerospace Company EADS
Posted By:   |  31 Aug 2012   |  9:28 pm GMT  |  17 comments

Caterham F1 have confirmed today that EADS, an aerospace and defence group, has joined the team as an official partner.

This is one of those deals which don’t appear to mean much at first glance, but which on closer inspection is quite significant. It means that Caterham will be able to outsource a significant amount of CFD and use the computing power of EADS, which has a significant value. To pay for that capability in house would be many millions.

EADS is a leader in aerospace, defence and related services; it owns the aircraft maker Airbus, and Astrium, a European leader in space programmes.

“EADS joins not only our F1 team but the whole Caterham Group as we evolve from an F1 team into the wider automotive and specialist consultancy service that the various arms of Caterham Group represent,” said Team Principal Tony Fernandes.

There is a fair bit going on around the team at the moment, with the move to Leafield and announcements about the composites department, one of which involves the partnership with EADS.

Away from motorsport the Caterham Group are to use EADS’ knowledge and expertise as they also look to break into the aerospace market. “Right now Caterham Composites and Caterham Technology and Innovation are involved in programs that utilise the specialist skills that both companies have in composite design and manufacturing, including a revolutionary lightweight aircraft seat and an in-flight entertainment system that will showcase the benefits composite materials provide on a global scale,” added Fernandes.

With many of the main building blocks of a serious F1 team in place, now the pressure is on Mark Smith, John Iley and the technical team to produce a 2013 challenger that takes them into the heart of the midfield.

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Will be interesting to see how this impacts/improves Caterham’s already tasty road cars too 🙂


Just another chapter in the Caterham book that makes Lotus Cars and their ex-boss Bahar look even more absurd. There’s a deal with the sort of technology company that might have made future models technically feasible for Lotus – now enjoyed by Caterham.


I think Charles Pic would be a good addition. I know, we have yet to see qualy or the race, but how kewl would it be to see Charles in qualy 2 at the monster of all F1 tracks??


This can’t be a good deal for EADS. They’re hurting financially: behind production and a design change / retro fit on the A-380 and problems with their cargo plane.

At least on the surface, it’s a great deal for Caterham. However, there will be ‘calibration’ problems and who knows how well suited EADS CFD system is for F-1 cars? Caterham could easily be led down a wrong path a la Ferrari and their CFD system.


I think the computing capacity Caterham would use in the grand scheme of things would be tiny for EADS. They would only really allow Caterham access to excess computing capacity. Afterall, most of the heavy computing work for their next products (A350, A320NEO, and A330 IGW) have been completed.

Airbus have the 69th most powerful supercomputer in the world with over 24,000 cores and 243.9 teraflops of processing power. Airbus is just one of the MANY significant business units. The others would have their own clusters.

Setting up a CFD focused cluster is not cheap at all. No F1 team or even car manufacturers come close to the computing power of EADS. It would be a pretty lightweight burden on the Airbus system to run Caterham CFD calculations.


You may be right. However, ‘most’ is not all, and despite my limited knowledge of aerodynamics and CFD, it would seem that the final computations / design ‘tweaking’ is as important and resource consuming as the initial work. Regardless, Caterham will still cost them time, resources, and money.


Sorry I meant Airbus’s next products, not EADS as a whole.


Yep. Interesting move. I wonder how really practical the arrangement is though and wonder if it’s more to do with the fact that Tony Fernandes’ Air Asia is a former Boeing customer that now operates 101 Airbus 320 planes and has a further 279 on order! I’d like to think this was done for all the right motives, but I fear James Enocre’s comment hit the nail on the head…


Fantastic news; I really hope they make a good step in 2013 – I just hope they change Petrov for a talented driver that can help move the team forward!


“Caterham will be able to outsource a significant amount of CFD and use the computing power of EADS, which has a significant value. To pay for that capability in house would be many millions.”

How would such an arrangement be dealt with under a resource restriction agreement, James ?

I realise that’s not likely to be a concern for Caterham anytime soon, but I’m interested in the principle.


They have a limit they can use under the RRA and at the moment only the top four teams are at that limit, lower teams aren’t. So plenty of capacity


Hi James,

I appreciate that – I was just interested in ho w a value would be put on such a deal for the purposes of any RRA. I’m pretty sure they won’t be the only team to make this kind of arrangement ?


I believe that teams are limited as to the amount of CFD time (CPU cycles?) they’re allowed to use, so they may save cash but they won’t gain a huge advantage in CFD.


It would be same as any “Arms length ” arrangement- What would EADS charge any company for its services if thats not applicable what does that service cost them.


I’ve been listening to a backlog of JA on F1 podcasts, (V.good btw – get some real insight) and what I heard supported my view about resource restiction agreements being both pointless and unenforcable.

So, lets see. Tony Fernades runs an airline. Not sure how many Airbuses he has, but reasonable to say EADS want to be on good terms with him. So they trade putting their name on his F1 cars for without passing cash over, but giving CFD computer time [ it’s unlikely composites will have much impact – aircraft tend to be millions of square meters of material designed, made, supplied and maintained over decades. F1 is a few square meters designed, used, and discarded in a few weeks ]

Now. If teams are supposed to show what they have spent, who decides what the value of using EADS supercomputing cluster is ?


‘not sure how many air uses he has…’

According to Wikipedia, 101, plus 279 (!) on order, making Air Asia airbus’ ‘largest single customer’.

Given that GE are also a major partner of the team (and one of the world’s top aeroengine manufacturers), it is a little difficult for outsiders to interprete the significance of these deals.

OT, I was amused to compare the Caterham / EADS tie up (Caterham gets access to EADS’ CFD!) with, er, the Lotus / Boeing one (where it’s -Boeing- getting access to -Lotus- CFD facility…). I appreciate that that ‘s as likely to be because Enstone aden’t allowed to use all the capacity themselves due to the RRA, but still, wow…


Airbus’s rival Boeing have launched the composite 787 Dreamliner, which aims to be more fuel efficient than other aircraft. The wings on the A380 are also composite. The composite deal makes a lot of sense because its the future of passenger aircraft design.

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