Caterham is on the brink of collapse, as the backmarker team loses even the support of F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone. "I think it's better they go," said the 83-year-old Briton as the latest developments emerged late on Wednesday. "I don't want people going around with begging bowls," Ecclestone told the Sun newspaper in an article credited to business journalist Caroline Reid.
His comments follow Caterham's publication of an explosive press release on Wednesday, as administrators of a company based at the Leafield factory refuse to release the race cars just days before the freight deadline for Austin. In the release, the new owners accused Tony Fernandes of not transferring shares, leaving them "in the invidious position of funding the team without having legal title to the team it had bought".
Malaysian Fernandes, having earlier distanced himself from the deteriorating situation at Leafield, hit back on Twitter: "If you buy something you should pay for it. Quite simple." Finbarr O'Connell, representing the administrator, is quoted by Speed Week as saying "Obviously, the party Tony Fernandes sold the business to does not have the funds to finance it".
The situation has left Caterham on the verge of collapse, with three grands prix remaining in 2014. The team admits administrators withholding the cars and guarding the team factory with private security has had "devastating effects on the F1 team's activities".
"After three months of operating the team in good faith, the buyer is now forced to explore all its options including the withdrawal of its management team," said Caterham. "Lawyers have been instructed by the buyer to bring all necessary claims against all parties, including Mr Fernandes who, as an owner, will run the F1 operation."
Reuters news agency reported that team boss Manfredi Ravetto confirmed that he is no longer running Caterham. But the harshest blow could be the loss of support of the powerful Ecclestone, who appears in no mind to intervene and keep the grid at 11 teams. "I don't know who owns them," the F1 chief executive said. "I don't know and I don't care. Let me tell you something, they will tell you whatever suits them to tell you." (GMM)