Fernandes outlines Caterham future
Team Lotus morphs in Caterham F1 in 2012, and Tony Fernandes has taken time to shed more light on where his latest motorsport acquisition is headed.
Team Lotus owner Tony Fernandes has revealed the future programme for the Caterham Group, which will encompass both his F1 and GP2 Series teams as well as well as a number of automotive, technological and innovation companies.
All will sit within a single group business under the stewardship of Caterham Group CEO Riad Asmat as Fernandes attempts to bring several strands of his growing entrepreneurial empire into line. What wasn't revealed by the Malaysian, however, was the impending addition of former Ferrari aerodynamicist John Iley from McLaren.
"We have been talking for some time now about our plans for Caterham in all its guises, from the road car company to F1 and GP2, and in the technology, design and innovation fields," Fernandes told the media at a briefing to coincide with the Brazilian Grand Prix, "Now, with the announcement we made last week about the rebranding in F1 to Caterham F1 Team for 2012 and beyond, we are in a position to give a much more in-depth explanation of how the Caterham Group is taking shape.
"Under Riad's guidance, there are currently four main areas of the business, and we will be adding more in the future. I will go into more detail about each arm of the Group but, in simple terms, we have Caterham Cars, Caterham F1 Team and other motor racing investments, including our GP2 team Caterham Racing, Caterham Technology and Innovation (CTI) and Caterham Composites. The range of businesses interests we have gives us a very strong foothold in a number of growth sectors, staffed with teams of people with a strong mix of experience, youth, creativity and passion. In short, we have all the right ingredients in place to do some incredibly exciting things in markets that are ripe for innovation and new ideas."
Fernandes revealed that while the motorsport activities would be relocating, although stopping short of confirming that it would be to the former Arrows and Super Aguri technical base at Leafield, the remaining businesses would continue to make use of Team Lotus' current HQ at Higham.
"With those four arms in place, and more to be announced in due course, we have a dynamic group of businesses already working together that gives a clear vision of what our long-term strategy is in their respective fields, and as one entity under Caterham Group," he continued, "The group will be based across a number of centres of excellence - Caterham Cars, Caterham F1 Team and our motorsport interests will be based in one location that we are close to announcing, and our technology and composites interests will be based in Norfolk. With those plans now complete we have the foundations in place for long-term growth and success, and now we are in complete control of our own destiny. We have a very exciting future ahead of us and are all looking forward to seeing the rewards of our hard work pay off for many years to come."
Breaking down the various areas of the business for greater scrutiny, Fernandes announced that Caterham Cars, under the leadership of Ansar Ali, would both maintain the growth of its existing line-up and work on an ambitious new product range ahead of 2014, while focusing on establishing new markets, notably in Asia and the Middle East, to build on the recent announcement of Caterham Cars India.
CTI, meanwhile, will work closely with Caterham Cars on the development of a completely new line of accessible and affordable sportscars inspired by the lightweight, minimalist philosophy of the Seven, as well as drawing on the advanced technologies and materials from the Group's F1 and GP2 operations. Despite only being revealed in September, the company will also undertake advanced projects for external companies within the automotive and aerospace sectors.
Newly-formed Caterham Composites will also see some cross-over with the F1 arm, as Mike Gascoyne will combine his role as chief technical officer of the latter with that of CEO at the specialist composites operation, which is already working on projects across the aerospace, nautical, motorsport and roadcar industries.
It is the motorsport operations, however, that will spearhead Caterham Group, with the rebranded F1 team being backed up by activities all the way down the racing ladder.
"Caterham F1 Team is the new and permanent incarnation of our F1 investment," Fernandes confirmed, "On and off track, we continue to invest in people, infrastructure and technology and 2012 is a critical year in our development.
"Underneath the F1 team sits Caterham Racing, the new name for our GP2 team, and then we have our driver development programme that encompasses various motor racing formulae from karting, GP3, World Series by Renault and right up to F1 - a staircase of talent that gives opportunities for drivers, engineers, mechanics and all the associated skill-sets across the motorsport industry the chance to learn, develop and reach the top.
"This is also complimented by the various Caterham Cars racing series, currently with approximately 700 cars competing in series around the world and now given a new impetus by the direct links to the F1 team and all our associated motor racing interests."
The F1 team also looks set to be given fresh impetus following McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh's revelation that Iley is destined for Caterham.
"I've just had a request from Tony [Fernandes] - could he have him early? -- and I haven't agreed yet," he told Reuters at Interlagos, "John is a good guy and we have got a number of things that we could have him do but we will decide that in the course of the next week. Tony would like him earlier and we might come to an accommodation on that."
Iley joined McLaren from Ferrari in early 2010, but Whitmarsh revealed that he had been employed more in a managerial role than aiding the team with its aerodynamics function.
"In fact, I think he's going [to Caterham] in a broader role than just aerodynamics," the McLaren boss surmised, "Tony is bringing together Caterham cars and I think he will be performance director [there]."
Although Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen threatened to start Team Lotus' final grand prix with a spot in Q2, both ultimately fell just short, but remained positive about the race to come.
"That is a great way to end qualifying for the season, one of the really good laps - I've had a lot of good sessions this year but that really stands out as one of the best," Kovalainen commented, "Jarno has been strong here all weekend and I was just behind him after the first runs, so I had to really pull out everything to beat him. Whatever happens, it'll be a good Sunday, and hopefully a great way to end the season."
"What a great way to end the last qualifying session for Team Lotus," Fernandes concluded, "We were within a second of cars right up to eleventh place, and just over 0.4 off Williams, so to bring to an end our qualifying for 2011, having made up that amount of time, is a real achievement.
"People forget that we do not have KERS this year - if we had KERS, as we do next season, would clearly be fighting in the midfield, so I am very happy with how far we have come in such a short amount of time. Our next qualifying session will be as Caterham F1 Team and that is a whole new chapter for us, something we are all very excited about and if we can maintain the progress we have shown in our first two years we will be right on course to achieve our long-term goals.