While Caterham F1's move to Malaysia appears to have been put on the backburner, team CEO Tony Fernandes insists that he is delighted to have played a part in kick-starting the motorsport scene in his homeland.
The Hingham-based squad had dreams of setting up its technical centre in Malaysia when it first arrived in F1 as Lotus Racing back in 2010 but, as time has gone on and the team now named Caterham, the possibility of relocating away from the UK motorsport hub looks more and more remote. Indeed, Fernandes recently confirmed that the team would be moving its F1 operations into the former Arrows and Super Aguri headquarters at Leafield to better take advantage of 'motorsport valley', but is quick to point out that not only does the team have some presence in Malaysia, but has also helped foster some of the country's rising talent.
"In terms of the development of the team, it has been widely reported that we have proposed a move to the facility in Leafield, and that process is underway," Fernandes confirmed to the official F1 website shortly after this year's race at Sepang, "In Malaysia, we have had an operation in place since 2010, where we have based a number of the team's facilities, and also have a running show car team who are busy all over Asia.
"This gives us a chance to blood new talent in the F1 environment away from the intense pressure of a race weekend and to allow mechanics and engineers from the ASEAN region to join the team, before stepping up to GP2 and F1. We will continue to expand this base in Malaysia, as the team grows, and we will always see Malaysia as the heartbeat of our team.
"On a personal level, however, I am extremely proud to see how far Malaysian motorsport has come in such a short space of time. It is developing into a true home of motorsport, not just in F1 - where the race at Sepang is firmly established as one of the highlights of the season - but in all categories of motorsport. AirAsia has also played an important role in helping not only Malaysian motorsport develop, but all forms of racing around South East Asia as well, and that is something that means a lot to me and everyone in AirAsia.
"Fahmi (motorcyclist Muhammad Zulfahmi Khairuddin) is a young Malaysian who will be a star of MotoGP for many years to come, [and] we have played an integral role
in helping him unlock his natural talent. He is a talisman for Malaysian motorsport fans, [but] at the other end of the scale is Riad Asmat, Caterham Group's CEO, who I
first met when he was being woefully under-used by Proton. He is now at the head of a group of companies that covers F1, GP2, road cars, composites, technology and innovation and a whole range of other businesses, leading the company on a global scale and showing that Malaysian people are right at the forefront of the growth of the sport worldwide.
"I saw something similar in both Fahmi and Riad and now seeing them and all the people who dream of working in this world achieving their goals is very satisfying - and long may that continue."