Tony Fernandes threatens to quit Formula One if Caterham fail to turn around fortunes
Tony Fernandes has called on all within Hingham-backed Caterham for a season-long concerted push to ensure he does not quit Formula One at the end of the season.
On a day when Fernandes cancelled a business trip to New York to be present at the team’s unveiling of its driver line-up for 2014, the Malaysian entrepreneur also dropped a significant bombshell.
Ahead of his fifth year in charge of the Leafield-based marque, the 49-year-old has revealed if Caterham make no progress this season after 77 grands prix without a point then he will walk away.
Fernandes 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?”
With team principal Cyril Abiteboul sat alongside him, it was hardly what the Frenchman wanted to hear – but he could appreciate Fernandes’ sentiments given all he has done for the team.
“He’s right,” said Abiteboul. “We should not lose sight of the fact being in Formula One is also a marketing activity.
“In order to promote a brand and a product, to attract sponsors, you have to be successful, visible. Right now we are not.
“It is also a challenge, when you are at the back, to keep people motivated and to recruit people.
“So the message is a strong one, and not an easy one to get across because we have a responsibility to the 250 people within the team.
“But we shouldn’t focus too much on this. Instead there has to be a level of competitiveness we need to get to, and that should be seen as a motivation rather than a threat.”
Fernandes, however, does insist he is “very excited” by the prospect of the forthcoming season with Japanese star Kamui Kobayashi and Swedish rookie Marcus Ericsson charged with scoring that elusive point.
Kobayashi is even driving for free such is his motivation for wanting to be back in F1 after a year on the sidelines following his release from Sauber at the end of 2012.
“Most people have written us off - as they have with 99 per cent of the things I’ve done,” added Fernandes. “But we’re determined, we’re a great bunch of people, and let’s see what the season brings.
“The message is we don’t give up, we’re going to keep going, and see where we get to.”