Caterham owners' row with Tony Fernandes puts future in doubt

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Former Caterham owner Tony Fernandes
Tony Fernandes announced he had sold Caterham to a consortium in July

Further doubt has been cast on the future of the Caterham team following the revelation of a dispute between their old and new owners.

The new owners have threatened to quit the team, a day after the company that built the cars was put into administration.

A statementexternal-link threatened legal action against founder Tony Fernandes for not transferring shares to the new owners.

Fernandes told BBC Sport the statement was "garbage".

The Malaysian businessman, who announced he had sold the team in July, added that his lawyers would respond on Thursday.

Fernandes, who owns the Air Asia airline and Queens Park Rangers football club, later tweeted: "If you buy something you should pay for it. Quite simple."

Insiders say the dispute is about whether the new owners have paid for the team, fulfilled their obligations under the deal they struck with Fernandes or carried through on the guarantees they gave as part of the sale.

But the statement from the company that agreed to buy the team from Fernandes in July said Fernandes would now run the team "as an owner".

The development brings into question Caterham's participation in the forthcoming US Grand Prix, which takes place in Austin, Texas on 2 November, and the race in Brazil the following weekend.

The Caterham F1 statement revealed the buyer's identity for the first time as a company called Engavest SA, based in Switzerland.

The dispute has emerged the day after a company called Caterham Sports Ltd, which built the F1 cars for the team, was put into administration.

Caterham's Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi during the Russian Grand Prix
Caterham Sports Ltd entered administration on Tuesday

Caterham F1's statement said the administrator was appointed on behalf of a Malaysian bank that is a creditor of Fernandes and the Caterham Group, which he still owns.

It said: "The administrators' appointment has had devastating effects on the F1 team's activities."

It added that since the agreement to sell the team, Fernandes and his partners had "refused to comply with [their] legal obligations to transfer their shares to the buyer.

"The buyer has been left in the invidious position of funding the team without having legal title to the team it had bought.

"This is in total contradiction to the seller's press release of 3 October 2014 which stated that Mr Fernandes and his Caterham Group had no longer any connection with the Caterham F1 Team."

The new owners are facing employment tribunal proceedings from 38 former employees, who are claiming wrongful dismissal.

Earlier this month, Caterham were visited by bailiffs, who seized several items from the team.

The new owners have insisted that Caterham Sports Ltd is not related to them, because they have transferred operations to the holding company of the team, 1 MRT.