|Will Caterham and its lineup of ride-buyers return to F1 in 2015 so they could clean the track on Friday morning for the rest of the competitors?|
The Caterham F1 Team had an interesting 2014 season. First they were in, then they were out and then back in again – it was all a bit like the Hokey Cokey – but is there a future for the Leafield-based team?
Caterham entered into the championship in 2010 as Lotus Racing and had a solid but unspectacular debut campaign. They managed to finish ahead of both Virgin Racing and Hispania Racing F1 Team, the other new entries for the season, and looked to have a good platform on which to build on. Such was the ambition that team principal Tony Fernandes had one of Colin Chapman's hats to throw into the air, just as Chapman used to, if they managed to win a race.
The following season was supposed to be the year that the Lotus Racing – now named Team Lotus – would score their first points. Jarno Trulli managed to record a 13th place finish in the season opening Australian Grand Prix and it looked as though points could be a real possibility at some point in the season.
Unfortunately this would turn out to be the team's best result of the season – equaled by Trulli in Monaco and Heikki Kovalainen in Italy – although they once again managed to finish ahead of both of the other 'new' teams.
After an extremely lengthy and messy court case over the naming rights of the Team Lotus brand, Fernandes rebranded the entry as Caterham F1 Team. At this point, the team moved from their former Hingham base in Norfolk to the ex-Arrows and Super Aguri factory in Leafield, Oxfordshire.
The following two seasons saw things get progressively worse for Caterham. Only an eleventh place finish from Vitaly Petrov in the final round of the 2012 season – the Brazilian Grand Prix – meant that they finished ahead of Marussia in the constructors' championship. After finishing last in the standings in 2013, once again failing to score single point, in 2013, Fernandes made his future involvement in the sport very clear.
"If we are at the back [at the end of 2014], I don't think we're going to carry on," he said. "After five years and to get no points, there's a limit to everyone's patience, money…"
As it turned out, Fernandes would sell the team midway through 2014. After a disastrous start to the season, not at all aided by the substandard Renault engine, things got even worse for Caterham at the Monaco Grand Prix, when rivals Marussia finally managed to bag their first top 10 result.
On the 21st October 2014, things all came to a head. The team went into administration and a row about who owned what broke out between Fernandes and the supposed new owners, Engavest SA. This dispute is still continuing through the courts so at the moment it is impossible to say exactly who's pocket is about to become considerably lighter.
While all of this was going on, the administrators launched a hugely successful crowdfunding campaign. Fans from all corners of the world came together to try to help get Caterham onto the grid for the Abu Dhabi season finale and campaign – surprisingly – was a success.
This brings us back up to the present day, but what of the future for Caterham? Well, if reports are to be believed then the team are in talks with three parties about a potential buyout. As things stand, Caterham have been told that they will be allowed to run their 2014 entry in 2015 – given how poor the car was there wouldn't seem to be too much point in running it – but time is running out.
The administrators have not set a deadline for a buyer to step forward but they have conceded that, with redundant staff moving elsewhere to find employment, the risk involved in buying the team is increasing.
Whilst many would all love to see Caterham – in one guise or another – on the grid for 2015, it is difficult to see it happening. Maybe they will return for 2016, but there isn't the time now to design and develop a car that would be able to do anything other than prop up the grid in 2015.
Then again, was that not the problem as far as Fernandes was concerned in the first place? Richland F1