Legal wrangle over Caterham staff cuts
New team owners take drastic measures to slash costs
Caterham face legal action from more than 40 former employees as their new owners seek to cut costs to save the faltering team. Job losses have reduced the workforce by more than ten per cent – Caterham previously employed 350 people – and have in effect wiped out a whole tier of senior management and their salaries.
A solicitor representing the former employees said that they are planning a lawsuit for unfair dismissal. “The summary dismissal of employees from Caterham was done without warning or consultation and will result in signicant compensation claims against the team,” Christopher Felton told the BBC.
Caterham responded with a stiff rebuttal: “The team is now taking legal action against those parties representing the individuals concerned, and each person involved, seeking compensation for the damages suffered by the team due to the gross misrepresentation of the facts made by all those concerned.” Former owner Tony Fernandes sold his team to a Swiss/Middle-Eastern consortium in early July. The money is believed to be from the Middle East, with the deal being administered from Switzerland. The new owners have still not revealed their identity, but have placed Colin Kolles in the team as an adviser. Kolles is de facto team principal, although former F1 driver Christijan Albers has been given that job title.
Kolles has a reputation as a cost-cutter and made it clear from the very beginning that he wanted a leaner operation. The team say they have given the green light to develop an upgrade that should be ready in time for the Belgian Grand Prix, with the hope of moving up to tenth place in the constructors’ championship by the end of the season. This would stop them losing out on £10million of prize money, but it’s a long shot, since their back-of-the-grid rivals Marussia have already scored two points as a result of Jules Bianchi’s ninth-place nish in Monaco.
Caterham’s focus on cost-cutting has shifted speculation to the future of their driver line-up. They have already held talks with Red Bull about placing Carlos Sainz Jr in the team at some point this year.
Red Bull, who provide Caterham’s gearbox and rear suspension, say Sainz must win the Formula Renault 3.5 title before he can be considered for F1 promotion. He could tie this up by the end of September, but even if it goes to the last round, he could still be parachuted into Caterham for the nal three races. After all, it was with the Kolles-led HRT team that Daniel Ricciardo made his Formula 1 debut in the second half of 2011.
None of this is good news for Kamui Kobayashi, who drives for free but brings very little money to Caterham, unlike team-mate Marcus Ericsson.
Colin Kolles: renowned cost-cutter, now de
facto team principal at ailing Caterham