The Formula One grid will be a smaller and slightly less colourful place without the bright green Caterham cars this year.
After their sale during the middle of last year they always seemed to be on borrowed time. They disappeared three races before the end of the season, only to make an audacious and unlikely comeback bid at the Abu Dhabi season finale. Sadly that has not proved sufficient to secure the backing they needed to return.
The team set up by Tony Fernandes at the end of 2009 never managed to score a point. But they were initially the most competitive of the new teams in F1, and for a while they seemed the most likely to thrive.
Before it was named Caterham, the new team set up by Fernandes returned the Lotus name to Formula One for the first time in 16 years. It came about in unusual circumstances.
In 2009 the FIA invited three new teams to enter F1 and granted entries to Virgin (later Marussia), Campos (later HRT) and US F1 (which never made it). However when BMW announced at mid-season they would pull out of their sport, an extra place was opened up, and in September 2009 the FIA gave Tony Fernandes’ Lotus team the go-ahead.
Given the late start to their F1 programme, Lotus impressed by beating their newcomers over the coming season.
The T127 looked boxy and basic but proved reliable and that was what counted. The experienced driving partnership of Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli, the latter one of several hirings from the defunct Toyota team, served the team well.
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Things got tricky in 2011. A switch from Cosworth to Renault power and a novel twin-airbox design failed to give Lotus the anticipated leap forward in performance, though they remained ‘best of the newcomers’ for a second year.
Off the track the team was dealt a harsh lesson in F1 politics. They became embroiled in a bitter row over the use of the name Lotus, which was also claimed by rivals Renault. A court ruled in favour of Fernandes, but he later relinquished the rights to use the name to Renault and rebranded his team as Caterham.
For year three Trulli was gone, replaced by Vitaly Petrov, and the Lotus name had been replaced by Caterham. But the midfield remained an elusive target.
In fact, keeping their established rivals behind was hard enough. It was only thanks to Vitaly Petrov passing Charles Pic six laps from the end of the season that Caterham kept ahead of Marussia in the championship.
The team also relocated from Hingham to Leafield, taking its GP2 operation with it.
It was all-change in the team’s driver line-up for 2013, with Pic joining them alongside Giedo van der Garde. But with HRT gone and Marussia making gains, Caterham fell to the bottom of the pile in their fourth season of F1.
For the second year in a row Caterham arrived at the first race of the year with a brand new driver line-up. The fan favourite and crowdfund-supported Kamui Kobayashi took one car, GP2 graduate Marcus Ericsson the other.
However Fernandes made good on his pre-season threat to sell the team if its performance did not pick up, and by mid-season its future was in serious doubt. It staggered on under a new management team, but after the Russian Grand Prix it vanished from the grid.
They made a remarkable comeback at the Abu Dhabi season finale, backed by a crowdfund organised by the team’s administrators. Will Stevens took over Ericsson’s car and thanks to him a Caterham saw the chequered flag for the final time in an F1 race.
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33 comments on “In pictures: Farewell to Caterham, 2010-2014”
Liam Radford (@lradford22)
3rd March 2015, 12:14
This whole thing is sad. Since 2010 until 2012, I had supported Lotus/Caterham and looked the most likely of the new teams to score. I dont even understand why they weren’t competitive; Fernandes invested allot of money, and they had Renault engines.
David Not Coulthard (@davidnotcoulthard)
3rd March 2015, 12:16
3rd March 2015, 23:01
We have a winner!
3rd March 2015, 23:56
@davidnotcoulthard I think you are right, it’s probably not entirely is fault, it’s also of the guy who hired Gascoyne.
People, Caterham was a disservice to F1. it’s a shame we lose 2 cars but in my book I don’t care for Caterham one iota, I was actually a believer they had the money and facilities at a point they signed with Renault and got Toyota’s wind tunnel on their backs but like HRT, the team had no idea of what they were doing. Poor financial management especially considering the decent budget and a continuous rap sheet of failed head staff gave an illusion that you couldn’t possibly come to f1 and grasp it’s world. Mike Gascoyne was head at 2 teams around their demise, more alarmingly these teams were doing fine before he arrived. There’s a reason why a team and an well funded institution such as RBR allows sometimes for some of their staff to join other teams, most of the time is because this people are incompetent. Caterham hired a couple of these guys and that’s surely partly to blame for their epic fail. Look at Manor, less budget less facilities less staff but in the end a steady slow upward trajectory in F1. If you can’t pay for engineers either hire kids or hire infamous characters and that’s precisely what they did by hiring Pat Symonds, and this man set the team for their recent success, unfortunately though, they went bankrupt, they suffered a huge blow with Bianchi’s unfortunate crash and they are constantly losing their valuable staff, people bought their designs and now they have to restart.
It says a lot about a team when you have less assets than the next team yet someone backs you up instead.
3rd March 2015, 12:17
Because they spent tens of millions trying to put the name Lotus on the car, and buying a new facility thye never needed, instead of investing it in making the car go faster.
Iestyn Davies (@fastiesty)
3rd March 2015, 16:14
@lradford22 Caterham’s problem was that they could never get the blown diffuser working after 2012, the same hampered Williams in 2013. Bottas was faster at COTA, and scored points, when they finally took the thing off the car…
4th March 2015, 6:45
Definitely sad. A completely mismanaged disaster. I don’t understand how a successful businessman like Fernandes let that happen. But with big-team castaway Gascoyne in charge and his girlfriend as head of marketing it seems Boss man Tony was taken for a bit of a ride.
3rd March 2015, 12:34
Farewell Caterham. I remember when they started I thought they were going to do well. Think it was Mike Gascoine was their designer? Always liked him for the extreme V angle engine he was involved with, just as Renault were becoming a works team again in the early 2000’s.
Stig Semper Fi (@stigsemperfi)
3rd March 2015, 12:43
We hardly knew ye.
3rd March 2015, 12:50
Goodbye Caterham! It was exciting at first but it soon became apparent they wouldn’t reach their midfield target & probably soon after would disappear off the grid. Another one bites the dust.
3rd March 2015, 13:10
Can’t say i’ll miss them.
3rd March 2015, 13:18
I’ll never forgive Caterham for showing Trulli the door during testing. It was a low blow from a team that I thought I could support. I guess after the honeymoon period of the first couple of years they showed their true colours.
The Abbinator (@abbinator)
3rd March 2015, 13:21
A shame when any minnow bites the dust, I’d say. Not quite the epic tragedy of Marussia (Jules) but still a lot of hard work for nothing…
3rd March 2015, 13:52
While I think it’s a shame to see any team go, Caterham did a fine job in ruining their goodwill in the past 2 years. Initially I could understand why they dropped Trulli for Petrov (money), but dropping Kovalainen for an all rookie line up, then getting an all new line up again, while explicitly stating that the team would be closed down if there would not be points, it seems Fernandez was tired of his toy after the decline set in during 2012.
While Caterham and Marussia had plenty of people with experience in lower categories as a team, I do feel the FIA needs to look at constructors entering F1, more so than people from F3 teams funded by businessmen with no long-term connection to F1.
3rd March 2015, 17:57
Yeah, they seemed to run out of steam in 2012, I suppose the big design overhaul for last year was the killing blow.
3rd March 2015, 18:23
I saw a nice interview with Karun Chandhok a couple of days ago (its on youtube, 45 minutes, worth watching) Chandhok mentioned that Fernandes had underestimated the amount of personal time it needed to really make it work as well as the politics.
3rd March 2015, 20:37
@bascb Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out.
3rd March 2015, 14:03
Not a disaster. Since the new teams started in 2010, they were always practically racing only each other. It was like having a F1b category on the grid. Their biggest contribution to the season was occasionally effecting the outcome of the race by interfering in a battle for the top positions. We should have fewer blue flags this year. Lets see if Marussia are able to make it – if so, than they will be several laps behind in every race. I think their budget would be better spent by giving it to charity, or to support young girls in karts.
Unless Bernie shares more of the revenue money with the teams in a fair way, than new startups have almost no chance. It will be interesting to see how HAAS do next year. I wouldn’t expect miracles.
3rd March 2015, 14:51
With haas coming in 2016 that literally means the death of any chance of marussia surviving. After haas is in the only position left for marussia is 11th place as a team and that pays nothing unless you add in the past season’s check from bernie. This year is pure money grab for marussia anyways. With the 107% rule being so easy to achieve they will probably just put in enough effort just so they can start the races. After that just drive around and collect the check from bernie. Two pay drivers, no design team to design a car for 2016 (other than the bare minimum crash tests), no updates other than what you can do with a hacksaw and random bits of found carbon fibre…
Just a money grab. Guaranteed 10th position in the manufacturer’s championship and the money that comes with that. Only if they can find enough money to get some kind of car on the grid. Maybe they are hoping to cash in and hope there is no technical rule change for 2016 so they can trundle around the track on the 2016 season too (with 2014 spec car) and collect the money that comes guaranteed from the 10th place this year. Haas will easily beat them for the 10th place so 2017 they’ll be out (and sorely not missed lol). Unless the rules don’t change so they could cash in (=can they qualify their ’14 spec car in 2017 inside the 107%?) and collect the last year’s 10th place. In best case they get rid of the 107% and marussia can keep going with their current car until we get an accident and remember why the 107% is based on safety reasons and not just to have an extra page in the rule book…
Although getting into the 107% might be too big of a challenge. Depending how the development goes that’s not impossible though. Some of that time improvement comes from the engine and powertrain package and that is the only part that will probably improve on the marussia from 2014 to ’15 (and possible to ’16) and with that some of the technical advancements of the faster teams are negated. So in the end the only limiting factor for how long marussia can keep their ’14 spec car in the f1 is down to the aero and chassis development of the mercedes factory team because the merc sets the bar with their q1 time that translates to the 107% rule. Not being able to start probably means no money from bernie. If one of the mercs accidentally pushes for any kind of lap time on their Q1 run then marussia will be out.. like polio from america… oh wait that joke doesn’t work anymore…
And for some weird reason there are people hoping for some kind of miraculous comeback for this team? What are they expecting? Marussia will be gone in 2017 without any doubts. I’ll eat my hat and so forth if they start in melbourne in 2016. Unless someone is stupid enough to buy the team. Haas had that opportunity and made the right call not to do it. They ran the numbers and came to the conclusion that starting from 0 was better move. Sure if enough drivers alrady inside the top 10 crash in monaco near the end of the race then sure a one in a million points finish is theoretically possible… but unlikely to move them up higher than 10th place in the constructors’ championship… which is the last place anyways. In a way this is kinda funny. The best possibility for marussia is to finish last and in a true schadenfreunde way it is kinda funny and exciting to see if they can even manage that.
3rd March 2015, 18:18
actually think its last years ferrari in the manor/marussia/virgin/whatever-they-want-to-call-themselves.
3rd March 2015, 14:49
I think they reached their peak competitiveness in Valencia 2012, when Kovalainen was close to scoring a point. In 2013, I feel they still had a decent season, although it was clear that they were not making any progress towards the midfield. Their 2014 season was a bit of an embarrassment, especially after Fernandes left, with disputes between the new management and Fernandes, Caterham staff being fired and suing, and everybody and their cat becoming a development/reserve/affiliated driver.
Still, I will miss them.
3rd March 2015, 15:54
I agree. If they hadn’t collided with the STRs (twice) they could have been in a serious contention for some points in that race. I still remember Petrov overtaking Massa… A Caterham overtaking a Ferrari purely on pace. It was one of the many extraordinary things in that race.
3rd March 2015, 18:43
@adrianmorse @nickf12013 Indeed, that was an extraordinary race for them!
GT Racer (@gt-racer)
3rd March 2015, 15:46
I think its very easy to forget that the championship they entered in Mid-2009 was completely different to what they ended up competing in.
When they put forward there entry they were promised a budget cap & so arranged the teams budget for 2010 around that cap & when the cap was dropped they found themselfs suddenly having to find more budget & from then on it was always going to be a struggle.
But even then they were promised that cost’s would come down & that smaller teams would get help yet cost’s continued to increase & any help they were promised never came.
I also however feel that Tony Fernandez holds a lot of blame in that he seemed to give up on the team as soon as he started to lose interest in it.
With the guy who is principle owner of the team spending more time around football & talking crap about the team, The sport & the people who were interested in taking the team over, Caterham was always going to go under.
You see with Manor/Marussia that the guys in charge stuck with it & fought for it even when things looked hopeless & they have helped save the team & get it into the grid this year.
I gather there are some very good people behind Manor’s return & that they plan to invest a lot of money into it so with there backing & passionate people on the Manor side, I actually expect them to not only survive but to also finally reach there potential over the next few years. 2015 will be a struggle, But from 2016 onwards I think they will be fine.
3rd March 2015, 18:48
I completely agree with you apart from this:
I don’t blame him. Don’t forget that Fernandez is ultimately a businessman, and it just wasn’t going anywhere, so he did lose interest and said what would happen if they didn’t improve, and so that happened. He wasn’t interested in sticking to it and fighting, but there’s no reason to really blame him.
I’m not saying that had I been in that situation I would have done the same – I would have probably kept pushing, but I don’t fault him.
GT Racer (@gt-racer)
3rd March 2015, 19:19
@strontium I don’t put any blame on him so much in terms of him losing interest, Its more that when he got to that point rather than doing what was best for the team & its staff & sticking around until new investors or owners were found, He simply seemed to walk away & leave things upto others within the team to figure it all out.
4th March 2015, 2:41
Yes, what surprised me was how quickly he lost interest. One minute he was at every race, giving every indication of having a genuine passion for the sport and being in it for the long haul, and the next he’d sold the team and buggered off to QPR. Or so it felt.
I think what all this – HRT and USF1 included – shows is that starting from scratch is a really bad idea. Or at least that a team started from scratch has a big “Danger” sign hanging over it. The reason Manor kept at it is because they’re Manor. The people in charge there have a genuine, long-standing, interest in racing. Of course they were going to stick by the team and try everything to get back on the grid, just as Frank and Claire Williams kept plugging away during their “wilderness years”, even as BMW and their sponsors abandoned them one by one. It’s their team. There was always the chance that they’d fail, but there was never any suggestion of them just walking away and writing it off as a bad investment.
I will miss having BRG on the grid though. Yet again. (How about it, Lotus? There’s really no need to stick with the fake JPS livery any more…)
3rd March 2015, 18:51
A really big, massive shame and loss to F1 to have lost Caterham. I honestly mean this. It really is a shame. Even if they did nothing for most of it, just having a team there putting in the effort to be a part of it was surely worth something.
3rd March 2015, 19:34
3rd March 2015, 20:45
In the first few years of the new teams teams I thought this will be the one team that will make it. But it was not to be. Manor has outlasted them, just.
But either way, it is a loss to the sport, not just in pure numbers, but in quality, enthusiasm and competence.
3rd March 2015, 20:23
What about Marussia? Any news? Is dead team too?
Ivan B (@njoydesign)
4th March 2015, 15:15
Manor is rushing to adapt their last year chassis for 2015 rules. They might even make it Melbourne.
3rd March 2015, 21:32
Never liked them. I think it was because of the Fernandes and his style of running this “business”.
It’s the team that dropped the drivers like Trulli and Kovalainen from F1 in very shameful style.
Always preferred Marussia with their ‘all about racing’ attitude.
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