FIA breaks silence on Caterham and Marussia situation

The FIA has issued a statement in response to the failure of Caterham and Marussia to show up in Austin.

It says that the US GP stewards will bear the circumstances in mind when considering whether the teams have broken the rules.

Looking ahead, the governing body says that it will support efforts at controlling costs.

“The FIA has been informed of the financial difficulties of the Caterham F1 and Marussia F1 Teams and of the considerable uncertainty surrounding their participation in the final races of the 2014 championship.

“It is the responsibility of the FIA Stewards to determine whether or not a team has failed to fulfil its regulatory obligation to take part in all events on the calendar and to take whatever action they deem appropriate. However, we have every confidence that the Stewards are fully aware of the financial situation of the teams concerned and these matters are always assessed with extreme care and due regard for the circumstances involved.

“Looking beyond the end of the 2014 season, these failings once again acutely raise the question of the economic balance of the FIA Formula One Championship and justify the position, expressed many times by the FIA, in favour of any initiative that will help reduce costs in order to ensure the survival of the existing grid or attract potential new entrants.

“As such, the FIA, in close cooperation with FOM and the different stakeholders in F1, will continue to work towards maintaining the attraction of the championship and the equitable participation of the teams in it in the years to come.”

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Former Caterham F1 boss Ravetto gives his side of the story

Former Caterham F1 team principal Manfredi Ravetto has expressed his frustration at the way the problems of supplier Caterham Sports have led to the team missing the US GP.

After Caterham Sports went into administration the administrator Finbarr O’Connell took control of 1MRT, the actual race team and owner of the entry, and announced that the team would not go to Austin. Ravetto had earlier been asked to step down from his role.

Meanwhile Tony Fernandes and the Caterham Group continue to claim that the purchase of 1MRT by Engavest – the consortium advised by Colin Kolles – was never completed.

“I am quite surprised by the latest happenings around the team and I thought it was time to rectify a few things,” Ravetto told this writer today. “First of all I was asked to step back under the promise that it was in the higher interest of the team and the team’s survival.

“I was promised that the team would keep going racing and salaries were paid and so on. Now the team is not turning up in Austin and the employees are struggling to get their money, and I would like to understand where we stand.

“As long as the management group I was a member of was in charge it is absolute undisputed that three things were happening. The cars were running, the salaries were paid, and the creditors were under control.

“It’s a fact that there are 300 families who have a problem now and nobody seems to be interested in that. I can only repeat that our priority has always been to keep the cars running, to keep the company alive, and to keep the employees happy and paid. Now I am not a Caterham guy and I am not an Engavest guy, I am workforce, so I am the same as a mechanic, same as an engineer.”

Ravetto insisted that there were key questions to be addressed.

“It seems to be undisputed by all parties involved that the team still belongs to the previous ownership [Fernandes]. My first question is why did Caterham Group and Mr Fernandes release a press statement on October 3rd saying they had nothing to do with the F1 team, and the F1 team was sold?

“I’ve been given plenty of reassurance and evidence that the purchase price has been paid. My second question is even if it was not why was a new management installed in the team? There must have been a good reason for this to happen. Otherwise I would have been forced into thinking it was just an exercise in order to shift over liability to somebody else, which is something I don’t want to consider, given the high profile of the parties involved.

“My next question is are we absolutely sure that there was no option in doing whatever had to be done in a timing and a way which was not causing this huge damage?

“How come CSL’s problem interfere with 1MRT? It comes to my huge surprise that a situation that affects company A has a detrimental effect of a death sentence to company Z. I’m not saying from A to B, from A to Z. This sounds very uncommon to me, and this is always something that needs an explanation.”

Expanding on the role of Fernandes, Ravetto said: “I think he is changing his version too many times. One day he is saying the deal has not happened because Engavest did not pay. Previously he said the deal happened and I have nothing to do with the F1 team. One day he says the deal has not happened because Engavest did not pay the creditors. And one day the deal has not happened because of not having transferred the building.

“How can we run the team for four months if we didn’t pay creditors? I think this is one of the most amazing things I ever heard.

“I understand that Finbarr O’Connell is fully in charge as per his request. I must say I found it very strange that he has also asked and received control of 1MRT. But I’m happy as long as the team is surviving. I’m afraid I don’t see this happening, that’s the problem.”

Ravetto played down the obvious suggestion that the plan was always for Caterham to morph into FRR, or Forza Rossa, the Romanian-backed team that Kolles has also been advising.

“I can say that at no time was this intended to become the Forza Rossa operation. The project from day one was to keep Caterham alive, to develop it, to expand it, also to integrate a structure of businesses, maybe with the chance of selling technology to third parties, In other words to make a proper thing around the team called Caterham F1. This was the task from day one. And this is something to which I was sticking until the very end.

“Nobody can say it wasn’t our intention to pay creditors, otherwise we would not have lasted until the Russian GP, and we wouldn’t have been ready to carry on. Everything was ready to finish the season, and everything was ready to start building the 2015 car.

“I just want to see the whole truth emerging, and I just want respect for the job which has been done, which cannot be disputed, and also the people who have worked with us.”

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Bianchi “continues to fight,” says family

Jules Bianchi remains in a critical but stable condition, his family said in a statement today.

The statement read: “It will be four weeks this coming Sunday since Jules’ accident and he remains in the Mie General Medical Center in Yokkaichi. His condition continues to be classified by the medical professionals here as critical but stable. Although we have no new information to give, we recognise that there are a huge number of people all around the world who are supporting Jules and willing him on in his fight. We owe it to his many fans to acknowledge the continued outpouring of messages, and to provide some information, however brief it may be.

“Jules does indeed continue to fight. Although there have been some reports suggestive of plans for Jules’ treatment, at this time his fight will continue here in Yokkaichi. We are taking things step by step.

“Once again, we would like to offer our sincere appreciation for the patience and understanding being shown towards our family at this very difficult time. We also continue to be comforted by the knowledge that Jules is receiving the best possible care at the Mie General Medical Center, with the doctors here remaining in constant contact with the neurosurgeons at the University La Sapienza of Rome, and Professor Gerard Saillant, President of the FIA Medical Commission.

“We will provide a further update when it is appropriate to do so. In the meantime, thank you to everyone who continues to keep Jules in their thoughts and prayers.”

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Ferrari to separate from Fiat/Chrysler

Fiat Chrysler has announced plans to spin off Ferrari into a separate company.

A 10% shareholding will be sold via an IPO, with the rest distributed to existing FCA shareholders.

The news was announced by FCA CEO and new Ferrari boss Sergio Marchionne.

He said: “Following our acquisition of the minority interest in Chrysler earlier this year, the transformation of Fiat and Chrysler into FCA was completed earlier this month with our debut on the New York Stock Exchange.

“As we move forward to secure the 2014-2018 Business Plan and work toward maximizing the value of our businesses to our shareholders, it is proper that we pursue separate paths for FCA and Ferrari.”

FCA chairman John Elkann added: “Coupled with the recent listing of FCA shares on the NYSE, the separation of Ferrari will preserve the cherished Italian heritage and unique position of the Ferrari business and allow FCA shareholders to continue to benefit from the substantial value inherent in this business.”

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Administrators trying to save Marussia

Marussia now formally gone into administration as attempts continue to save the Banbury-based team.

Geoff Rowley and Geoff Carton-Kelly, partners of FRP Advisory LLP, have been appointed joint administrators of Manor Grand Prix, the company behind the team.

The team was always facing a deadline related to the Russian GP. Owner Andrey Cheglakov wanted to see a car on the grid at his home race, but had tired of underwriting the running costs of the team.

One key to the future is the question of whether the team still has a Ferrari contract. Sources told this writer in Sochi that that might no longer be the case.

Rowley explained: “Whilst the team has made significant progress during its relatively short period of operation, the highlight of which included securing two constructors championship points in the current F1 season, the position remains that operating a F1 team requires significant ongoing investment.

“With the existing shareholder unable to provide the required level of funding, the senior management team has worked tirelessly to bring new investment to the team to secure its long term future, but regrettably has been unable to do so within the time available. Therefore, they have been left with no alternative but to place the Company into administration.

“With the Marussia F1 Team now in administration, the joint administrators have assessed that, given the current financial circumstances of the Group, it is not viable for the Marussia F1 Team to participate in the next race, the 2014 Formula 1 United States Grand Prix, due to take place this weekend in Austin, Texas.”

The comment regarding the existing shareholder would seem to be a little ungracious given that sources have told this writer that Cheglakov has pumped £185m into the team.

Regarding the future, Rowley said: “The Company will continue to operate while the joint administrators assess the longer term viability of the Company in its present form.

“Following Austin, there are two further rounds of the 2014 championship remaining, in Sao Paulo and Abu Dhabi, and the team’s participation in those races will depend on the outcome of the administration process and any related negotiations with interested parties in what is a very limited window of opportunity.

“No redundancies have been made following the Company’s entering into administration and all staff have been paid in full to the end of October. The ongoing staff position will however be dependent on whether the Company can secure new investment in the limited time available.

“We remain highly focused on engaging with interested parties.”

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FIA could change US GP qualifying format for 18-car entry

The FIA has the option to change the format of qualifying to reflect the 18-car entry that it is expected in Austin next weekend, with both Caterham and Marussia failing to make the trip.

Currently six cars are eliminated in both Q1 and Q2. With an 18-car field that would mean that only two cars would be bumped out in Q1 – and with Sebastian Vettel having already stated that he will sit out qualifying due to a power unit change guaranteeing a pitlane start, in reality we could see only one car bumped in Austin.

However, the FIA Sporting Regulations include the provision for changing the number of cars that are eliminated. The numbers specifically referred to are eight for a 26-car entry, and seven for a 24 car entry. It follows that with an 18-car entry four cars would be bumped from Q1 and Q2.

The regulations refer to the size of the ‘championship’ entry rather than that for an individual race. However sources confirm that once the stewards have officially been notified that only 18 cars are in the Austin field they will have the option to decree that four cars are eliminated in Q1 and Q2.

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Ecclestone says Marussia and Caterham will skip US GP

Bernie Ecclestone has confirmed that both Caterham and Marussia will miss the US GP – leaving a field of just 18 cars.

Speaking to Reuters, Ecclestone said: “Neither of those two teams are going to go to America.”

Freight was due to embark to Austin today, and missing the US race will mean missing Brazil as well. It remains to be seen whether either team can survive the current crisis and make it to Abu Dhabi.

While the focus all week has been on the future of Caterham, main rivals Marussia have been facing similar financial difficulties, and the situation has obviously been made more complex by the Jules Bianchi accident.

It’s long been rumoured that Marussia investor Andrei Cheglakov wanted to see a car on the grid for the first Russian GP, and thereafter he would cut off his funding.

It’s understood that under what used to be called the Concorde Agreement teams can skip three races, so in theory both could miss the rest of the season and still survive in some form next year.

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