Caterham F1 boss Tony Fernandes has offered a strong warning to his team that this is the last chance—they either make significant progress in 2014 or he’ll pack it all up and go home to make read cars. AUTOSPORT has the call:
“My message to the 250 people here [at the factory] is we have to go for it this year,” Fernandes said.
“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.”
As we discussed on Monday’s Podcast, wouldn’t this make a better investment for an aspiring American Formula 1 team to enter the series with? Why re-create the wheel when the infrastructure is already there? Perhaps Gene Haas could just as easily avoid the $40 million fee to join the series and simply purchase Marussia or Caterham F1?
Infrastructure and location are key elements and Caterham F1 is strategically located in the UK giving any would-be suitor a real chance at success. How you measure that success is certainly up to you but for Fernandes, it isn’t at the back:
“If we’re at the back I don’t think I’m going to carry on,” Fernandes 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.”
If you consider that Lotus F1 has a budget for another year, Caterham F1 has just signaled its intentions and also factor in Marussia’s financial struggles along with Sauber, you’re looking at a potential for two or three teams that could leave F1 in 2015 unless things change.
What will change? One can’t imagine CVC Capital making drastic changes to the payout structure to keep teams flush and Formula 1 boss Bernie Eccelstone has been critical of how teams spend their money. Ultimately the “show” as they like to call it, is growing stale and that’s even after they’ve heaped loads of “spice” on top of the damn thing like DRS, ERS, HD tires and now, double points. Fernandes said:
“The sport has to examine itself,” he said. “I’m in a fantastic position to see two sports – football 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.”
He’s not alone in the lament. Many F1 fans are growing weary of the constructs but the restlessness of the F1 fan masses has to be taken with some perspective as the instant gratification crowd seems to criticize the sport for being predictable as they salivate over NASCAR’s 7th title for Jimmy Johnson or Sebastien Loeb’s 7th title or Audi’s domination of Le Mans and the WEC. One of the few racing series that’s producing different winners is Indycar and it hasn’t been lost on me that the series has enjoyed a new interest from European fans.
Either way, Formula 1 had better sort itself out or CVC’s big investment will have been milked dry leaving teams to switch to the WEC for real-world competitive racing that may be more appealing to their road car manufacturing because in the end, the only people that can afford to stay in F1 are manufacturers—we’ve ran the privateers out of the business…except for that really big privateer who is dominating the series right now with energy drinks to spare.