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Exclusive Q&A with Caterham team principal Christijan Albers

17 Jul 2014

It’s a little over two weeks since Tony Fernandes sold his stake in the Caterham F1 team to a consortium of Swiss and Middle Eastern investors and former Grand Prix racer Christjian Albers took over the day-to-day running of the squad.

But whilst he may not have had much time to assess the situation, Albers already has a clear idea about the future direction of the team, as he explains in this exclusive interview…

Q: Christijan, you’ve got yourself involved in quite a task by taking over the running of the team that is last in the standings. You must have a good plan - can you share that?

Christijan Albers: I am sure you would expect me to say this but it is too early to go into the details of our plan, especially as I am just over three weeks into the job. However, I want to say that I am very excited about the challenge that lies ahead of me and the whole team. Yes it is a big task, but that is what makes it so interesting - if it was easy it would not make it so fulfilling when we do get it right, and I am sure we will.

Q: Can you say something about the Swiss-Middle East investment consortium that has funded the takeover?

CA: I have been asked that question numerous times and I will give the same answer - it is a group of private investors, too many to name individually.

Q: What is the attraction for you in running a Formula One team? So far it seems a bit of headache…

CA: It has only been three weeks, so far - it’s too early for headaches! No, for me it is about helping a team reach its full potential and achieve stability. If we could do that it would be a great result. The fact is that Caterham has everything it needs to have to be successful - the people, the facilities and the resources - now it needs leadership and direction and we believe that we can give the team both. The end product of this should be a successful F1 team, one that is a central part of the show every day we are racing, and one that can build on the foundations already laid down.

Q: You have analysed the team’s situation - what are the next crucial steps? And where has the team gone wrong so far?

CA: Again, it is too early to go into that sort of detail. At this stage we are still assessing the overall strengths and weaknesses of the team across the whole operation. We have seen how they operate on track at Silverstone and we need more time to efficiently evaluate the whole structure. Only then will we be able to move forwards and deal with what has gone wrong in the past.

Q: There have been many former F1 drivers in the more recent past who thought that they could run an F1 team - and failed. What makes you believe you will succeed?

CA: It is not for me to say whether I will succeed or not - that is something that will be judged by my peers in hindsight. But I know that having been a driver and been active in the business world I have two skillsets that will be very useful in the coming weeks, months and years. I know how teams run, I know how to operate successfully in the commercial world and with the people I have around me to call on for advice and guidance. I am in a strong position.

Q: You will have the role of team principal - will that mean that you are the person to sit at the team principals’ meetings and deal with FOM and the FIA?

CA: I am team principal and Manfredi Ravetto is general manager and deputy team principal.

Q: With Colin Kolles you’ve got a man on board that seems to know how to make an ailing team a survivor. What will be his exact role and how did the two of you get together? Yes, you drove for Midland when Kolles was team principal but running a team together is quite a different matter…

CA: I am very lucky to have Dr Kolles and Manfredi Ravetto to call on for advice. Both are experienced in F1 and the business world and both have an extensive range of contacts they can and will use to help me and the team. As I said before, this puts me and the whole team in a strong position with expert advice to call on.

Q: When former Caterham team principal Cyril Abiteboul was asked what advice he would give somebody wanting to start a team from scratch his answer was: choosing the right location - meaning that Leafield obviously is not. Will you remain there, as there are rumours about moving the team to Germany where Kolles has facilities?

CA: I do not think Cyril meant Leafield, it is more likely he was referring to the team originally starting in Norfolk and having to move to be in the same area as most of the other F1 teams.

However, for the foreseeable future we will be at Leafield. It is a very good facility in which there are a lot of talented, passionate people and it suits our purposes well.

Q: What will the takeover mean for the current drivers?

CA: As with any business, we are constantly evaluating all our employees, and our drivers are no different.