The Caterham F1 operation has wasted little time in naming the successor to Tony Fernandes as team principal, with Cyril Abiteboul taking over the role with immediate effect.
Despite the rumour mill throwing other names into the mix when Fernandes made it clear that he was ready to step back from leading the team he brought into F1 under the Lotus Racing banner in 2010, Abiteboul was the logical choice, having been transferred in from Renault to fill the position of CEO earlier this year. The Frenchman will now combine his existing responsibilities with the added tasks of leading the team into battle.
"Cyril is going to be an excellent team principal,” Fernandes insisted, “He has extensive experience in F1, he is extremely well respected and he shares our vision for what we want our team to achieve. He takes over during a season when we have not yet fulfilled our potential, but at a time when we have everything in place to help us do so. One day we will earn our seat at the top table of F1 and he is the right person to take us there.”
Other business commitments, both within the wider Caterham group and elsewhere, and his involvement with QPR football club, prompted Fernandes to hasten his exit from the team principal role.
"Having launched our partnership with Renault in Paris on Monday, the plan Kamarudin [Meranun] and I formed over three years ago for our automotive interests has come to fruition,” the Malaysian continued, “The strategy for the establishment and growth of Caterham Group has now reached the stage where we can step back from the day to day running of the F1 team in favour of Cyril, who will be able to dedicate himself full time to the role and work closely with Riad [Asmat] to help take our automotive interests into the next stage of their growth.
"This decision allows Kamarudin and I to focus on AirAsia and gives Riad the structure he needs to allow the various Caterham Group businesses to flourish under his leadership. Kamarudin and I will continue as co-chairman of Caterham Group and we now have the best possible team in place to take our dream into its next phase. Kamarudin and I will still have an active interest in our various Caterham companies, but we have now reached the point in the growth of the business where it makes most sense to step back.
"We have taken Caterham Group from nothing just three years ago to today, where Caterham Cars has the platform with Renault to take it from a niche brand into an innovative participant in the global automotive market. Caterham Technology is also integrally involved in the Renault partnership, working with Renault on the design and development of our road cars, as well as currently working with a number of other blue-chip companies including Airbus, and they are fast being recognised as a leading player in the technology and innovation fields. Caterham Composites is also in rude health, working with CTI on the Airbus project in addition to a variety of other cutting-edge programs that will soon see the light of day."
Abiteboul only joined Caterham as CEO in September, but is looking forward to taking up his new role and playing a part in the Leafield operation's ongoing quest to join the F1 midfield.
"I am honoured to take over as team principal, and I would like to thank Tony and Kamarudin for the chance to lead this team into the next phase of its growth,” the Frenchman commented, “We have big challenges ahead of us, but the shareholders are committed and behind us to help us take significant steps forward over the coming years, and one day challenge for the highest honours in F1.
“We have an incredible spirit within the team and that has been created by Tony and Kamarudin. This spirit, allied to a strategic vision that gives us a clear path to success, is what will keep driving us forwards and we all look forward to the day we can make the dreams our shareholders had several years ago come true."
Caterham has yet to announce its drivers for 2013, and this will become a primary focus for Abiteboul as the current season wends to a close via the US and Brazilian grands prix. Vitaly Petrov is widely expected to leave the team after failing to attract significant backing from his native Russia, while Heikki Kovalainen, who has been with the team from its inception, is also thought to be on rocky ground with sponsorship. Reserve driver Giedo van der Garde, Bruno Senna and Charles Pic have all been mentioned in connection with possible rides for 2013.