Words: Chris Stevens
During the third episode of ‘Diaries of an F1 boss’, former Lotus CEO Matthew Carter revealed to hosts Spanners Ready and Matt Trumpets that his team were considering buying the Caterham team in 2014.
Caterham had scored a best constructors’ championship result of 10th in the 2012 season with an 11th place finish from Vitaly Petrov during the Brazilian Grand Prix.
The team hit significant financial trouble in 2014, however, missing the two final American rounds of the championship before they went into liquidation at the end of the year.
In a discussion about Renault’s recent engine woes with Toro Rosso, Carter was asked if he had previous dealing with the French manufacturer’s current managing director Cyril Abiteboul.
“Yes I did. Cyril’s had a fairly interesting career,” Carter said, “I’m sure you remember he was the team principal back at Caterham during my first year in 2014.
“Interestingly enough as Caterham failed there was a fairly lengthy discussion between the owners of Lotus and Tony Fernandes at Caterham, and we were considering buying Caterham and running it, effectively, like a B-team for Lotus.
“We had those discussions. Their factory’s not a million miles away from Enstone, there was a few collaborations we could have done.
“We looked at it, sort of weighed it up, weighed up the options of having different cars with different sponsors on them and how much revenue we could bring in.
“I had a tour of their factory, we worked out what synergies there were between their premises and our premises. We both had Renault engine at the time, so there was a synergy there.”
Carter added that the idea was to create a Red Bull/Toro Rosso-like set-up in which Caterham would run a series of listed parts provided by Lotus.
“The idea was we were going to reduce the Caterham factory down to basically a design office and a small manufacturing area, and then the listed parts would all be made at Enstone so suspension, gearbox etc. could have all been made at Enstone and then the aerodynamics and the chassis would have been made at Caterham.
“Then the idea for us was we could go to some of our sponsors and tell them they were getting twice as much coverage. We could even give certain sponsors bigger spaces on a second car. We didn’t get as far as talking about liveries but that was the theory.
“From a numbers point of view it did stack up. We would reduce the Caterham staff size and probably increased the staff at Enstone a little bit. Between the two businesses we could have just about made it work.”
When asked why the deal never came to fruition, Carter said:
“Honestly it was time. They were in a worse position than I think a lot of us realised at the time. Even though I’d seen the figures.
“I don’t know if you heard all the stories but I think some bailiffs turned up, locked the gates and the Caterham staff were sat outside, and as soon as stuff like that happens it tends to come down like a pack of cards. It all fell apart and we just didn’t have the time to put the deal together.”
You can hear the full interview, in which Carter also discusses Lotus’ transition from Renault to Mercedes power, his dealings with the press and Ferrari’s quit threat in the latest episode of ‘Diaries of an F1 boss’.