|Photo Credit: Caterham F1 Team/ Sam Bloxham/LAT Photographic|
The status of the Caterham F1 Team has been a lingering source paddock talk in the recent months.
A July sale of the four-year-old Formula 1 organization by the Tony Fernandes-led ownership group to a collective of Swiss and Middle Eastern investors (1MRT) has been followed by various reports. The first story revolved around a sizable 50-person layoff occurring around time the new owners assumed command of the team. The majority of the affected staff members have filed suit against Caterham F1 Team for alleged unfair termination of employment. Earlier this month, a story circulated a bailiff moved in to seize items belonging to the Caterham F1 Team fanning rumours of a failing financial state of the Leafield, England based team. Following publication of this story, Caterham issued a statement citing the information as "uncontrolled rumours" stating the seizure related to a supplier for their company.
On the competition side of Caterham F1 Team, the two cars fielded by the group is still struggling as a Formula 1 back-marker. Having never scored a world championship point in five seasons in the sport under several personas (Lotus Racing in 2010 and Team Lotus in 2011), 2014 drivers Marcus Ericsson and Kamui Kobayashi of the Reanult-powered machines are typically spotted at the bottom of grand prix time sheets for much of the season. Recently Christijan Albers, named Team Principal in July for Caterham F1 under the new ownership group, stepped down from his role. Deputy Team Principal and General Manager Manfredi Ravetto assumed the spot.
In order to combat differing reports of the team, Ravetto answered several questions relating to the team's operations. "We are on a high and we keep fighting day after day, even if there are a few negative comments or skepticism from some people who would be happy to see us failing: we can live with this, we have no problem at all; what we do is answer with facts, starting with the technical improvement of the car and stabilizing of the team's financial side – but we just want to remind everybody that we are those brave ones who try to firefight; we are not the ones who left the team in a critical status! I can tolerate misinterpretations on everything except this. And, by the way, we historically seem to be quite successful in contradicting the rumour mill" said the Team Principal for Caterham F1. Stating the team was destined to stop racing after the British Grand Prix under its former ownership, Manfredi Ravetto proudly asserts their commitment through the remainder of the 2014 season. "Our performance is steadily improving and recent results plus our great qualifying performance in Sochi are putting us on a level the team has hardly shown previously." Ravetto responded citing Ericsson's 16th place effort in Russian Grand Prix qualifying. "Sochi was definitely the place to be: we enjoyed racing there and contributing to bring F1 to Russia; the event was fantastic, the atmosphere was breathtaking and the circuit is at the highest of standards."
Caterham F1 Team Principal Manfredi Ravetto also addressed comments made by team driver Kamui Kobayashi following his retirement from the Russian Grand Prix. While some reports had Kobayashi referring to fuel mileage issues related to the departure from the race, Ravetto recounts it as a brake problem. "Actually, I was very surprised to hear Kamui referring to some mileage-saving instruction coming from the team's management: we saw via telemetry that there was a potential issue with the brakes and we decided to avoid any risks; Kamui officially confirmed this as well and I’d like to add that he had also asked us to change the previous set before qualifying because he felt some vibration. To be clear: yes, we instructed Kamui to retire because the safety of our drivers is our first concern! Regarding Kamui's comment, all I can say – and again, I’m answering with facts – is that the team has continuously made progress since the British Grand Prix, we've managed to qualify very well in the last two races, getting very close to Q2, and in Suzuka we repaired Kamui's heavily damaged car in time for the next session without any problems, so I cannot understand his comment." In Caterham F1's release following the race, Kamui Kobayashi's quote referring to the #10 went as follows: “A disappointing Sunday. When I heard over the radio that I needed to pit I thought it was just a normal pit-stop, but then I was told that I needed to retire. It was all a bit of a surprise to me and at first I didn’t really know what the reason for having to stop was. The team has now analysed the telemetry and it was clear that my brakes were overheating too much. It’s a shame to end the weekend like this, but there’s not much more I could do today.”
In response to what the team expects for final three races and beyond, Manfredi Ravetto was candid. "We know there are still some bumpy roads ahead and we don’t expect an easy ride, but we will deal with each situation as it arrives. For avoidance of any doubt, I’d also like to add that Leafield remains the team’s base, even though it’s no secret that we are looking for a more suitable alternative. We look forward to the final three races of the season; we will keep fighting, we will keep improving and we will introduce some positive surprises: stay tuned! said the Team Principal.