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Fernandez claims Caterham Grp not for sale – no mention of F1 team
Recent speculation about the future of the Caterham Group and the apparent disinterest of owner Tony Fernandez has been refuted by a statement on the team’s F1 site.
By all accounts, the press rumours of Fernandez seeking $589 million for the Caterham Group are ‘factually incorrect – the Group is not for sale.’
“It is, however, true that the Group is actively searching for additional investment as it seeks to fulfil ambitious plans to develop. The shareholders of the Group, co-Chairmen Tony Fernandes and Datuk Kamarudin Meranun, remain wholly committed to the Caterham brand.”
Fernandes confirmed: “The Caterham Group is not for sale. We love what we build and we are always looking for further investment. This is no different to how we started AirAsia. Yes, we are constantly challenging ourselves and making decisions on everything from the structure to projects within the Group. That is normal business. That does not mean we are selling.”
What is not mentioned in the press statement is the future of the F1 team, just that the Group is not for sale. The Caterham Group’s is made up of 11 separate divisions which include the F1 team, Caterham cars and Caterham Technology and Innovation.
Yet it was only four months ago that he told the team: “My message to the 250 people here [at the factory] is we have to go for it this year. 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.”
“If we’re at the back I don’t think I’m going to carry on. 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.”
Hardly the message of someone in it for the long term…
Fernandez had bought into the Max Mosley dream of £40 million budgets when he joined the sport but it has become clear that this will never happen. Caterham stays routed to the back of the grid and with the recent haul of points for Marussia, it is unlikely Caterham will finish inside the Top 10 once again – with its benefits of prize monies and travel costs assisting the budget significantly.
The genesis of the Caterham F1 team goes back to 2010 when Fernandez entered the cars as Team Lotus. After a court case over the naming rights of Lotus, he merged the F1 team into another business he had acquired and the Caterham Group was born. Despite investing in the Leafield facility and having Mike Gascoyne as designer aboard, the team have failed spectacularly in their endeavours.
With his airline business expanding, his football team promoted to the premiership league in England, the only embarrassment on his CV is the F1 team.
Hamilton behaviour ‘sub-standard’ – Hakkinen (GMM)
Mika Hakkinen says Lewis Hamilton’s behaviour was “sub-standard” in Monaco. 2008 world champion Hamilton accused his Mercedes teammate of deliberately sabotaging his push for pole position, afterwards refusing to acknowledge his race win.
“I appreciate Nico’s patience in this situation,” double world champion Hakkinen told Finland’s Ilta Sanomat newspaper, when asked about the falling out. “I do not like the idea of what Lewis did. It was quite sub-standard behaviour,” said Hakkinen. Even now, it is believed Hamilton and Rosberg have not spoken a word since Monaco. “They are in different places,” team boss Toto Wolff is quoted by DPA news agency. “So it’s not unusual.”
Hamilton indicated after Monaco that he had seen evidence that convinced him that Rosberg had acted deliberately under braking for the Mirabeau corner. That same evidence did not, however, convince the Monaco stewards, including former F1 driver Derek Warwick. “I don’t want to give him (Hamilton) advice really,” Warwick told the Daily Mail. “He has won umpteen races and a world championship. But if I were to say anything it would be to man up and concentrate on the next race in Canada.”
Indeed, Rosberg is showing signs of wanting to move on. “It was one of the more difficult weekends,” he said on a visit to Italy where the German football team is preparing for the world cup. “But I think after a break we will, as always, talk about it,” added Rosberg. “I make an effort for teamwork and for the atmosphere in the team.”
It seems less likely that Hamilton is similarly ready to move on. Indeed, Gerhard Berger – who hosted the Mercedes bosses and drivers for a dinner on his yacht in Monaco – thinks the duo are set for an “explosion”. Clearly it’s just starting now,” he told Austrian Servus TV. “I think Hamilton must do his homework better. He is currently the fastest man in formula one, but he still focuses too much on trivialities. Rosberg is the perfect package,” added Berger.
A clear ‘number 1’ and ‘number 2′ situation is easier for a team to manage, but team boss Wolff said he believes one of the secrets of Mercedes’ dominance this year is a pair of drivers who spur each other to great heights. But that doesn’t mean he was overjoyed in Monaco. “I was the bad guy after qualifying,” said Wolff. “I told them it is absolutely unacceptable to have to spend the afternoon with the media talking about whether one of them cheated or not. I have other things to do.” He was particularly unhappy about Hamilton’s suggestion that he will deal with the situation just as Ayrton Senna did, sparking rumours of a deliberate crash.
“We had our board members in Monaco, our partners — I will not have our team and our brand made a fool of. I think they (the drivers) understood,” said Wolff. “They can have fun with their toys so long as they don’t break them,” the Austrian is quoted by Italy’s La Gazzetta dello Sport. “It will never come to the level of the Prost-Senna relationship,” Wolff promised. “Clearly there is no hugging, but this is a job, not a holiday. It is wonderful to have two drivers at this level.”
Rumours suggest that Honda looking to buy into Mclaren
Honda has a chequered history in Formula One. As a manufacturer team in the late 60’s they won two Grand Prix – the 1965 Mexican GP and the 1967 Italian GP but the fatal accident of Jo Schlesser at the 1968 French GP prompted their exit from the sport.
They returned in 1983 as an engine supplier with the Spirit team before joining forces with Williams and subsequently Mclaren in the late 80’s. The result; five drivers titles and six constructor titles with their respective teams.
By 1992, with the Renault powered Williams providing true competition they decided to leave the sport once more and supplied engines via their Mugen Motorsport connection. Mugen Motorsport was formed in 1973 by Hirotoshi Honda – the son of Honda Motor company founder Soichiro Honda – and was an engine tuner and parts manufacturer with close ties to the Honda factory but despite the family links had remained an independent concern.
Honda returned as an engine manufacturer in 2000 with BAR and Jordan before acquiring a 45% stake in BAR in late November 2004. Within a year Honda had bought out the remaining 55% and entered the 2006 season as the Honda Racing F1 team. Honda won their third Grand Prix as an entrant at the 2006 Hungarian event – a break of thirty-nine years. Mixed conditions and retirements of several fancied runners allowed Button to claim victory from 14th on the grid.
By 2007 Honda was struggling to gather sponsorship and decided to fund the team themselves with their Planet Earth livery. Reactions were mixed, with Greenpeace accusing the manufacturer of hypocrisy due to the pollution of F1. By the winter of 2008, Honda had withdrawn and sold the team to Ross Brawn who went on to secure the following years titles with Mercedes power.
Fast forward to 2014 and Honda is working on an engine design for their return to F1 competition with Mclaren. Paranoia within F1, over technical secrets, means Mercedes take their engines back from the team after every event but are aware that Honda has information available to them from the team’s running over the weekend.
But are fans of F1 too quick to believe Honda rejoining Mclaren will bring similar success to a generation ago? Rumours have been circulating for some time that Honda is funding part of Mclaren’s budget for this year to be in place to take over completely next year.
Mclaren have appeared with bit-part sponsorship over the last few months despite Chemical Boullier’s assertions that the title sponsorship would be announced shortly and recent talks with Japan’s Rakuten Group for a $60million annual sponsorship deal have fallen through, with the Japanese concern speaking to the Lotus team instead.
Ron Dennis has made it clear he will not de-value the worth of his team and despite their lack-lustre performance will not entertain predatory companies looking to sponsor the team for less than he believes is justified. But it has been suggested that the Bahraini-owned Mumtalakat company that owns 50% of Mclaren is looking to sell it’s shares and Honda may be the buyer.
The question has to be, can Dennis – with his fastidious nature – truly be happy with another Planet Earth sponsorship format? Could it be that not only has the loss of Hamilton significantly reduced the team’s appeal to sponsors but the tie-in with Honda is not as welcome in the corporate world as it is to nostalgic F1 fans…
Hamilton walking a tightrope with Mercedes
Whether hypocritical, or not; Mercedes Benz are highly sensitive to all matters or suggestions of impropriety. One reason CVC are prepared to cut Ecclestone loose if he is found guilty of the current Munich corruption charges is due to the pressure brought about from Stuttgart following Mr. E admitting having made the $44m payments to the Bayern bank official, Gerhard Gribkosky.
Mercedes threatened to withdraw from F1.
“If it is proven that Mr Ecclestone has done anything that is criminally wrong, we would fire him,” Mackenzie, chairman of CVC, told a hearing at London’s High Court last November.
The background to Stuttgart’s sensitivities culminated in 2010, when the German car manufacturer agreed to pay $185m (£124m) in fines to settle a corruption investigation in the US. US prosecutors had accused Daimler Benz and its subsidiaries of paying tens of millions of dollars in bribes to secure government contracts around the world.
According to the court filing, the carmaker “made hundreds of improper payments worth tens of millions of dollars to foreign officials” in return for assistance “in securing contracts with government customers for the purchase of Daimler vehicles worth hundreds of millions of dollars”.
This boosted the company’s pretax profits by at least $50m (£33m), the filing said. In certain cases, Daimler made bribes from “cash desks”, allowing employees to take out large amounts of cash to make payments to foreign officials.
“In some cases Daimler wired these improper payments to US bank accounts or to the foreign bank accounts of US shell companies in order to transmit the bribe,” the court papers said.
One case outlined in the court documents describes how Daimler and its distributor gave an official in Turkmenistan a Mercedes armoured car worth €300,000 (£270,000) for his birthday. In Iraq, Daimler paid 10% kickbacks to Iraqi officials so it could sell them vehicles in violation of UN oil-for-food programme rules.
Prosecutors also uncovered corruption in China, Russia, Turkey, Hungary, Greece, Latvia, Serbia and Montenegro, Egypt and Nigeria, among other places.
Suffice to say, the current board wish to present an image of the brand which is whiter than white.
Lewis Hamilton does wear his heart on his sleeve, which at times has meant when he is upset he has released information which with hindsight would have been better kept quiet. Spa 2012 and tweeting Jenson’s telemetry is an obvious example of this. Lewis felt the team were with-holding information about his team mates set-up which had disadvantaged him in qualifying.
This weekend in Monaco, Hamilton informed members of the media that he had seen evidence demonstrating that Rosberg had acted deliberately to create the yellow flag in the dying moments of qualifying. “I wish you could have seen the data. I saw something late on last night and all I could do was smile,” Hamilton revealed.
We also learned at the weekend that Hamilton had disobeyed the team’s orders in Barcelona, run his engine at a “extra power” setting the team had forbidden both drivers to use and later been forced to apologise to Nico for this. It appears Nico kept his own counsel over this.
Yet Toto Wolf was furious this weekend following the Hamilton disclosure and whilst he couched his comments in terms of “both drivers” clearly for this specific instance his reprimand was directed at Lewis
“it is absolutely unacceptable to have to spend the afternoon with the media talking about whether one of them cheated or not. I have other things to do,” Wolff stated. “We had our board members in Monaco, our partners — I will not have our team and our brand made a fool of.”
It appears Toto was particularly upset by Hamilton’s veiled threat to ‘do a Senna’ on Nico and deliberately crash into him.
“They can have fun with their toys so long as they don’t break them. It will never come to the level of the Prost-Senna relationship,” Wolff asserted.
Hamilton has been widely criticised by others from the world of F1 for going public and claiming he has evidence that Nico cheated. This includes former driver and current steward Derek Warwick. “I don’t want to give him (Hamilton) advice really. He has won umpteen races and a world championship. But if I were to say anything it would be to man up and concentrate on the next race in Canada.”
Lewis ended up at odds with his McLaren family, and at the end was heavily marginalised in the garage. This weekend he has publicly accused both his team mate and his team of lying and cheating. Should he continue his outbursts, he will surely become marginalised in his current team..
Once is unfortunate, twice may infer some kind of pattern.