Caterham is preparing to return to formula one for F1's 2014 finale in Abu Dhabi next month. As it was put into administration following founder Tony Fernandes' ill-fated sale to Colin Kolles-managed investors, the team as well as backmarker Marussia sat out Austin and will again be absent in rainy Brazil this weekend.
But it then emerged on Wednesday that Caterham's administrators, led by Finbarr O'Connell, have lodged an official team entry for the 2015 season. Marussia, now renamed to the operating company Manor, is also on the provisional FIA entry list. But reports that Caterham and Marussia have paid the $500,000 entry fee already are wide of the mark. That fee is not due until late in November.
O'Connell, however, who now runs Caterham, said it was imperative to lodge a 2015 entry so that the team is saleable. "It's absolutely essential," he said. "We're hoping the new owner will then pick up things like the fees and finalising the 2015 design."
It would also make Caterham's life much easier if it could appear and race in Abu Dhabi, as Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA only agreed a two-race dispensation for the backmarker teams to sort their financial problems. O'Connell said: "I think I've got enough confidence now to say I'd be very surprised if we were not racing in Abu Dhabi."
A headline at Brazil's Globo Esporte suggested Rubens Barrichello could make a "surprise return" to F1 as Caterham looks to get back up and running. "There are a number of parties involved," said O'Connell, "but because the financial commitments are so huge it is difficult for people to commit. But we are making arrangements to go to there (Abu Dhabi) as we speak."
Marussia, now Manor, has been much quieter following its slump into administration, but boss Graeme Lowdon was in Austin last weekend for meetings. In Austin, of course, the next three endangered privateer teams Lotus, Sauber and Force India threatened to boycott the race if the sport's owners CVC do not release more revenue.
It is reported those teams, plus Caterham and Marussia, could share a $160 million bonanza if Lotus owner Gerard Lopez's direct negotiations with CVC chairman Donald Mackenzie are successful in the coming hours. "Talks are progressing well," the Guardian quoted Lopez as saying, "but I don't expect any news before Friday."
According to departed boss Cyril Abiteboul, however, life at the back of the grid for a team of Caterham's scale is not viable. The Frenchman, having returned to Renault, told Auto Hebdo: "In their (Caterham's) situation to be in formula one, it was simply impossible. "You only have to analyse their situation and the economic model of F1 to realise that the adventure was doomed to failure," said Abiteboul. (GMM)