Gascoyne: Kovalainen didn't help himself in negotiations
Heikki Kovalainen's approach to finding a drive in 2013 did not help his bid to remain at Caterham, it has been claimed.
Caterham's Mike Gascoyne has suggested that Heikki Kovalainen would have been better served by taking a better approach to his bid to remain with the team in 2013.
The Finn has made no secret of his disappointment at not landing a seat for the coming season, either with Caterham or, based on his strong performances with the Leafield team, another further up the grid. With the already-confirmed Charles Pic bringing sponsorship to the team, Gascoyne claimed that neither Kovalainen's management group, nor his decision not to pursue financial backing to support his bid, helped the driver's cause.
"It is actually a great shame," Gascoyne admitted to Crash.net, "Heikki is a very talented driver but, last year, his management did not handle him very well and he has not done himself any favours. It is a tough environment out there for everyone. He has had three years with Caterham, was paid well, and he should have shown more respect about that."
The financial health of the team is clearly very important to Caterham, despite the Leafield squad having finished tenth in the constructors' standings in each of is three seasons in the top flight. Unlike Marussia and the now defunct HRT, that meant that it would at least be rewarded for its efforts on track, but Gascoyne is keen to point out that prize money alone is not enough to help build a solid base for the team to operate from.
"I think budgets will be very hard this year, as it is tough out there for everyone financially," he explained, "We can't expect anything to happen overnight, but we want to make sure that Caterham Group is financially viable and it builds up its resources to being a long-term F1 team. Steady investment to make sure we are here in five years, ten years' time and to be a solid midfield team, a fifth to eighth place overall player, is the aim.
"We realise what the game is. People boom and bust easily. We have come in and done a very steady job compared to other new teams and have been professional, but we've taken a step back and said 'okay, we are not going to get there straight away, we need to manage our budgets, mange investment and build up our resources so we are here for the long term'.
"Maintaining our position as a tenth place team will be the priority, but what is important is the automotive development of the Caterham Group. If the group is profitable, then the F1 project will have a long-term future, and that is where my interest and expertise is. Moving to Leafield is great news, great facilities, we will build it up slowly to make sure it is sustainable."
Gascoyne is also prepared to admit that he may have been a little hasty in predicting that the team, in its various guises since 2010, would have been in contention for points. So far, it has yet to break into the top ten in any race in its three years, although its results have been enough to ensure that it filled the vital tenth spot in the constructors' table at seasons' end.
"You have to be realistic - if you look at the nine teams above us, they have been racing in F1 for 20-30 years plus," he pointed out, "Lots of teams have come and gone in that time and have failed. Even running off a smaller team budget of around £50-£70 million, which is a huge amount of money, you are probably investing £5 million in capital, but if you look at the costs for wind tunnels and facilities, you are talking about £200-£300 million pounds in equipment there. So for a relatively new team to come in and match that, it is not going to happen.
"Of course, you talk a good story and there were times last year where we were pretty close, but you have got to be realistic. For a new team now to come into F1 and survive and build up and build a group, such as Caterham, it is pretty difficult. The sustainability of Caterham was always [based on] building up a group and, even though I started [at] the F1 team, there is really no surprise that I am now running the automotive side of it as, ultimately, that is where our survival is. F1 does not pay."
With the Resource Restriction Agreement under fire from some teams at the sharp end of the grid, Gascoyne is keen for another means of controlling costs to be found, and admits that he remains in favour of the idea that originally hooked the three new teams ahead of 2010.
"In the late 1990s and early 2000s, there was an era where it was just a spending war," he noted, "They have tried to change that and Max Moseley's spending cap is something I still fully support, because [teams] are still spending near £300 million on going F1 racing for two cars and 20 races. How is that justifiable in a green and socially responsible era?
"If you had twenty Caterhams painted in different colours going round a track, no one would notice - it would probably be a close race, with a great atmosphere and a great noise. You don't need to spend £300 million, [but] you need to spend £250 million if the next guy is spending £240 million and so on people outspend each other. We should limit it, we need a spending cap. It is madness, [but] while the rule makers are cashing in and making money out of it, it will stay that way."
Article based on interview by Dexter Fielding