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Kolles: 'Caterham must change'

2014-07-08 09:29


IN CHARGE: Former F1 team boss Colin Kolles is the new Caterham 'advisor' but he could just be the main man calling all the shots. Image: AFP/Damien Meyer

LONDON, England - Caterham's new owners intend to keep the struggling team in Formula 1 for years to come but say tough decisions must be made for that to happen.

The warning came from the man overseeing the transition, former F1 team principal Colin Kolles, 46, brought in as an "adviser" but seen as the key figure calling the shots behind the scenes.

He told Reuters in an interview he had a clear plan.


"I think we've made a lot of progress," the Romanian-born German explained. "There will be more changes, more things to be done. I prefer to have 200 safe jobs than 300 lost jobs. Sometimes you have to make unpopular decisions but I think certain people know and understand that changes have to be done and that it cannot continue like this. It's impossible."

Caterham was handed over by Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes - who had threatened before the start of the 2014 season to walk away if the team did not improve - to a mystery group of Swiss and Middle Eastern investors only days before last weekend's (July 6) British F1 GP.

Kolles said they were "private individuals from the Middle East with Swiss connections". F1's commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone told Reuters separately he had no idea who they were.

Kolles is advising new team principal Christijan Albers, a Dutch former F1 driver with whom he had worked closely, despite sacking him from the Spyker team in 2007. Some changes were evident at Silverstone with branding associated with Fernandes' AirAsia airline stripped from the cars, even if there had been no time to replace team clothing.

The General Electric logo that had been prominent went, along with Airbus and a string of Fernandes-owned businesses.


Kolles said only paying partners remained on the cars - one of them mobile company Truphone whose investors include Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich. "I am not here as a charity. What you see there is reality," he shrugged.

The German, who steered the former Jordan team through various incarnations as Midland, Spyker and then Force India as well as taking the helm at now-defunct HRT, said Caterham as a company was debt-free. "A lot has been resolved within three days. We still have creditors to sort out, normal trade creditors. We are trying to bring everything to calm waters.

"The team should be there for many more years. That is the target."

It was not, he said, a question of surviving. The question is at what level? It's not only about sorting out creditors. In parallel you have to put it financially straight, you have to restructure the whole company because it is a mess, you have to put upgrades on the car and find the best-performing driver/car package."

Germany-based Kolles said the Renault-powered team, which has scored zero points since its debut in 2010 as Lotus Racing, would remain at its UK factory, former home of the failed Arrows and Super Aguri teams, "for the moment".


Who would drive remained uncertain. Japan's Kamui Kobayashi and Sweden's Marcus Ericsson joined at the start of 2014 with funding a pre-requisite.

"In terms of performance we have to look into. I had meetings with the management and drivers. I think I am always transparent. The last driver I sacked out of F1 was Christijan Albers - now he's my team principal. This should give you a taste of how I deal with people."

Kolles remains involved through his German company with the Romanian-backed future "Forza Rossa" entry which is hoping to come into the sport, but he rejected a suggestion he could asset-strip Caterham for the benefit of the other outfit or fold the two into one.

"This is a Malaysian company, running under a Malaysian flag. It has nothing to do with the Romanian project," he said. "It's difficult to change the name and to change a company which is registered in Malaysia and bring it to Romania.

"This company (1Malaysia Racing Team) has the entry and you cannot transfer it. If that company no longer exists you lose the entry. The entry is related not to a name but to a company number."

Kolles, who kept a low profile at Silverstone and spoke inside the team hospitality area, said he was focused only on putting the team on a sound footing.

"I'm still a similar person to the one of 10 years ago. I haven't changed completely. There will be certain things that are the same and certain things that are for sure optimised or better. Maybe worse, I don't know," he smiled.

"This mission will be successful. It's a hard mission but it has to be successful."

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