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Caterham boss Tony Fernandes: “We’ve learned through failure”
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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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.


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.


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!



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?


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.


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.


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?


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.


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.


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?



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.


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.


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

Ross Brawn!


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.


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


“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.


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

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.


This pretty much confirms no Caterham in F1 2015.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


Alexander Rossi….????


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… 🙂


caterham GP2 driver


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.


Very glad Kamui is back.

Good that Caterham have got a proper driver at last.


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.


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.


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! 🙂

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