F1: 'Everything was ready to finish the season,' says former Caterham boss
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 said Thursday. “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.”