Caterham facing 'a very pivotal year' in 2014, admits boss Tony Fernandes
Owner warns he could walk away if Caterham fail to break points-scoring duck in 2014; Team have appointed Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson for the new season
By Pete Gill. Last Updated: 22/01/14 3:26pm
Caterham boss Tony Fernandes has warned he could walk away from his nascent outfit unless they score their first F1 points in 2014 after four years at the back of the grid.
The team announced on Tuesday that, in a dramatic departure from their inexperienced but well-sponsored 2013 line-up of Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic, they have hired Kamui Kobayashi to partner 23-year-old Marcus Ericsson for the upcoming campaign.
In an era of pay drivers, the appointment of Kobayashi in particular is a clear statement of ambitious intent from a team which finished rock-bottom in the Constructors' Championship last year.
However, might it also be a last throw of the dice? Possibly so, with Fernandes dropping a heavy hint that 2014 is a make-or-break year for his involvement with the team.
"There comes a point," the Caterham Group Chairman acknowledged to Sky Sports News. "I'm the most optimistic man in the world but you don't want to be coming last all the time. This is a very pivotal year."
Fernandes' threat to walk away from Caterham if the team fail to trouble the scorers in 2014 was made even more explicit in a subsequent with Reuters:
"If we are at the back, I don't think we're going to carry on. After five years and to get no points, there's a limit to everyone's patience, money etc.
"If we are not competing then we have got to seriously examine ourselves as to whether this makes sense."
However, despite the apparent ultimatum, Fernandes is confident his team can progress up the grid in 2014.
"I see optimism in the team and I see a fire in their eyes which I haven't seen for a few years," he told Sky Sports News' Craig Slater. "A lot of good work has gone in around the factory and we have some good people coming in from good teams - and that in itself says something because you don't leave a top team to come to a team at the back unless you see that this is a good project and people are doing the right thing.
"On the business side, we are doing quite well, but we want to make progress and this is a very important year for that."
While Ericsson scored four podiums last year in the GP2 series, the immensely-popular Kobayashi is expected to be the spearhead in the team's sought-after push up the grid. According to Fernandes, the Japanese charger's arrival has already galvanised the team as they ramp up their preparations for the 2014 campaign after losing direction - and position - in 2013.
"This wasn't about money. Having him here is a good morale boost for the team," said Fernandes.
"We put most of our investment into this year's car and we thought we had enough to stay ahead [of Marussia in the Constructors' Championship in 2013]. Without a doubt, we paid a price last year - it was a calculated risk which went wrong."