Caterham owner Tony Fernandes has warned he will turn his back on Formula 1 at the end of this year unless his team makes progress.
After four years without his squad scoring a single point, and with costs in F1 having gone up rather than down, Fernandes said on Tuesday that 2014 was a make or break season for his involvement in the sport. The most likely scenario should Fernandes pull the plug on Caterham is that the team would be put up for sale.
He reckons that the opportunities afforded by all new regulations, allied to a push to finally impose a cost cap that was promised back in 2010, mean that the season can be decisive.
“My message to the 250 people here [at the factory] is we have to go for it this year,” Fernandes said during an event at Caterham’s Leafield, UK base. “This is it, the final chance.
“We’ve given you the best infrastructure, the best potential drivers, but it is now down to all of you to go and do it.”
Fernandes made it clear that there was not a specific target that Caterham needed to reach this year beyond at least being able to compete.
“If we’re at the back, I don’t think I’m going to carry on,” he explained. “Nothing is set in stone, but after five years with no points there is a limit to one’s patience, money, motivation, etc. So it’s an important year.
“I need to feel like we’re going somewhere. If I feel we can compete, then great, but if we’re not competing then we have to seriously examine ourselves and ask, ‘Does this make sense?’ If we’re not competing, two seconds behind everybody else, then we haven’t made any progress.”
Fernandes underlined that he expects to see the progress he hopes for, and also revealed a new deal to use Toyota’s wind tunnel in Cologne.
“I am saying these things with the confidence that I think we will deliver,” he said. “I would not be here otherwise.”
F1 NEEDS TO IMPROVE, TOO
Beyond the competitiveness of his team, Fernandes also reckoned that F1 had to take action to cure the cost crisis that was hurting almost every team. He compared grand prix racing to British soccer, where he is the owner of Championship side Queens Park Rangers.
“The sport has to examine itself,” he explained. “I’m in a fantastic position to see two sports – football (soccer) and F1.
“Every week I go to a game nervous as hell, whether we’re playing Yeovil, Doncaster or Leicester, because football is unpredictable. It’s no secret people are paying more money to watch football, TV rights are growing, global audiences are growing, so what are they doing right that we’re not doing right in F1?
“We spend all our time looking at how long a piece of pipe is, or how good KERS is etc., but the racing stays the same, with the same three or four teams there winning. There is no underdog who comes in.”