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Motorsport | Formula 1

Caterham Formula One © Gallo Images

Fernandes sells Caterham F1 team



Tony Fernandes has finally cut his ties to the Caterham Formula One team after it was announced on Wednesday he had sold the struggling British-based outfit.

The Malaysian businessman's decision came after enduring four-and-a-half years without a solitary Grand Prix point and a personal investment of some £250 million by Fernandes, the owner of both AirAsia and London football club Queens Park Rangers – who next season will return to play in the lucrative English Premier League.

A Caterham statement said Fernandes had sold to a consortium of Swiss and Middle Eastern investors.

The new owners are being advised by Colin Kollas, who has experience with several Formula One teams including Force India and the new defunct HRT.

Former Dutch Formula One driver Christijan Albers, assisted by Manfredi Ravetto, will take over the day-to-day running of the team which, the statement said, will remain based at Leafield, near Oxford, for the "foreseeable future".

The decision was made public just days before this weekend's British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

Albers drove for Minardi, Midland and Spyker from 2005-07, working with Kolles in the latter two seasons, before switching to sportscar racing.

Cyril Abiteboul, who had been working as team principal, has left the team to "pursue new challenges", according to a Caterham statement.

In May, the 50-year-old Fernandes insisted: "Caterham Group is not for sale."

But that month saw Caterham's fellow makeweights Marussia take their first ever Formula One points at the Monaco Grand Prix, courtesy of Jules Bianchi's ninth-place finish.

Trying to improve Caterham's results promises to be a major task and Albers said: "We are aware of the huge challenge ahead of us given the fight at the bottom end of the championship.

"Our target now is to aim for 10th place in the 2014 championship.

"We are very committed to the future of the team and we will ensure it has the necessary resources to develop, grow and achieve everything it is capable of."

Caterham are currently bottom of the 11-team table with no points, with Sauber, who've also yet to score, tenth and Marussia ninth with two points.

Fernandes arrived in Formula One five years ago believing he would have a chance of eventually competing with the likes of established giants Ferrari and McLaren given he thought then International Motorsport Federation (FIA) president Max Mosley was about to impose a £40m budget cap on teams from the 2010 season onwards.

But that came to nothing, while a further complication for Fernandes was that he found himself involved in a protracted row over the name of his team when, having thought he had the rights to the celebrated Lotus brand, he had to change to first Team Lotus and then Caterham in 2012 after the old Lotus side was re-established.

Despite huge personal investment, results remained poor and with Fernandes's passion for football seeing him devote more time to QPR, he warned in January that unless Caterham improved he would sell-up.

Fernandes, however, has retained ownership of both Caterham cars and the GP2 marque.

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