After half a decade of bringing up the rear of the Formula 1 grid, Caterham F1 team are on the brink of collapse.
In their time of desperation, it appears all avenues are closing on them – including the support of F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.
“I think it’s better they go,” the 83-year-old said in response to the latest developments emerged late on Wednesday after a series of reports suggested the Leafield team’s management was locked in an intense argument with ex-helmsman Tony Fernandes regarding claims share transfers were not completed.
“I don’t want people going around with begging bowls,” Ecclestone was quoted as saying.
The F1 lead-man’s comments follow Caterham’s volatile press release on Wednesday, as the credited company administrators refuse to release frozen assets – including the team’s CT05 race cars just days before the freight deadline for the imminent Austin Grand Prix.
The press release was used by the team’s new owners as a platform on which they could accuse Tony Fernandes of failing to transfer company shares, leaving them “in the invidious position of funding the team without having legal title to the team it had bought”.
Malaysian man Fernandes initially distanced himself from the increasingly hostile situation, but has since taken to social media to hit back as things have become more bitterly desperate: “If you buy something you should pay for it. Quite simple.”
When asked to comment, Finbarr O’Connell, representing the company administrator, has been quoted as saying “Obviously, the party Tony Fernandes sold the business to does not have the funds to finance it”.
The ongoing problems have hindered the team’s championship progress, and crippled Caterham’s movements to the point where they may be forced to watch the final three races of the season from the sidelines.
In response to the administrators decision to use private security and enforcement to withhold the cars at the team factory, the Caterham has admitted the actions will have “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.”
The company breakdown has forced many senior members of staff out of the company, with team boss Manfredi Ravetto confirmed that he is no longer running Caterham.
But the harshest blow could be the loss of support of Formula 1’s most powerful man – Bernie Ecclestone, who seems to have been alienated by the stricken team, and in no mind to offer intervention.
“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.”
When a team loses the support of their sport’s most influential figure, it speaks volumes for the extent of their desperation – Caterham’s future offers nothing on the horizon other than further decline into eventual insignificance.