Fernandes in quit threat

  • Last Updated: January 21 2014, 15:40 GMT

Tony Fernandes has threatened to quit as owner of Caterham at the end of the season if his team continue to languish at the back of the Formula One grid.

Tony Fernandes: 'I need to feel like we're going somewhere'
Tony Fernandes: 'I need to feel like we're going somewhere'

Heading into his fifth season in charge of the team, Fernandes is no longer prepared to dip into his considerably deep pockets to fund a marque that has yet to score a single point in 77 races.

Fernandes dropped his bombshell on a visit to Caterham's Leafield base where he announced an all-new driver line-up for the coming year of Japan's Kamui Kobayashi and Swedish rookie Marcus Ericsson.

The Malaysian entrepreneur, who also owns Sky Bet Championship side QPR and highly-successful airline AirAsia, has become frustrated at Caterham's lack of progress since they entered F1 in 2010.

That is primarily due to the fact Fernandes was sold on a promise by former FIA president Max Mosley of a £40million cost cap on teams, when instead the gulf between those at the front and back has grown.

With typical Fernandes honesty, he said: "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, etcetera, 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.

"When I started a two-plane operation (with AirAsia) I saw a massive opportunity, and even though I had no money, we found a way to build 150 planes.

"So that's the thing. If we compete, then we have to find a way to do things, to go for it. That's the competitive spirit in every human being.

"But if we were still a two-plane operation and losing tons of money every year then you'd have to say 'what's the point in carrying on?'"

The financial side of Formula One is significant for Fernandes as he can see no way to claw away at the gap to the likes of Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren and Mercedes.

Running a football team, despite suffering the heartbreak of QPR's relegation from the Barclays Premier League last season, gives Fernandes the perfect opportunity to realise the differences between the two sports.

"The sport has to examine itself," said Fernandes.

"I'm in a fantastic position to see two sports - football and Formula One.

"Every week I go to a game nervous as hell, whether we're playing Yeovil, Doncaster or Leicester, because football is unpredictable.

"It's no secret people are paying more money to watch football, TV rights are growing, global audiences are growing, so what are they doing right that we're not doing right in Formula One?

"We spend all our time looking at how long a piece of pipe is, KERS etcetera, but the racing stays the same, with the same three or four teams there winning. There is no underdog who comes in.

"In football, what's great is a Yeovil going into a cup game and beating a Manchester United. That can happen in football."

Highlighting the introduction from this season of the double-points system for the final race in a bid to liven up the title picture, an exasperated Fernandes added: "That is a fake fix.

"What's better is to solve the issue and make the racing more compact so a Sauber, a Lotus or a Force India could cause an upset.

"That's what people like to see, what people like to watch, and that is what is missing in Formula One. The gaps between the haves and the have nots has made racing boring."


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