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EXCLUSIVE Mike Gascoyne, Caterham - Q&A

11 January 2013

Mike Gascoyne, Caterham Group technical officer and CEO of Caterham Technology and Caterham Composites, give his thoughts on development and team budgets in F1 over the last 20 years and Caterham F1's progress since the team was set up in 2010...


Crash.net:
Mike, when the Lotus/Caterham F1 project first started in 2010, you were quoted as saying that by 2012, you should be in a position to score points. This has so far not happened and the press have picked up on this, what are your thoughts about that?

Mike Gascoyne:
You have to be realistic, if you look at F1 at the moment, the nine teams above us, we finished tenth, they have been racing in F1 for 20-30 years plus. Lots of teams have come and gone in that time and have failed, so for a new team to come in and even running off a smaller team budget of around £50-£70 million, which is a huge amount of money, you are probably investing £5 million in capital, but if you look at the costs for wind tunnels and facilities, you are talking about £200-£300 million pounds in equipment there. So for a relatively new team to come in and match that, it is not going to happen. Of course you talk a good story and there were times last year where we were pretty close, but you have got to be realistic for a new team now to come into F1 and survive and build up and build a group, such as Caterham, it is pretty difficult. The sustainability of Caterham was always building up a group, even though I started the F1 team, there is really no surprise that I am now running the automotive side of it, ultimately that is where our survival is, because F1 does not pay. People have to appreciate how difficult it is to come in and match the big teams.

Crash.net:
You have been very fortunate to have been in the F1 paddock for more than 20 years and working with different teams, how has development and team budgets changed over that period of time?

Mike Gascoyne:
Toyota are the ultimate example of 'money will beat engineering' where they just tried to spend their way to glory and didn't manage it because of the disorganisation between themselves and they didn't listen to any ideas. In the late 1990's and early 2000's there was an era where it was just a spending war. It's a great shame. They have tried to change that and Max Moseley's spending cap is something I still fully support, because they are still spending near £300 million on going F1 motor racing for two cars and twenty races. How is that justifiable in a green and socially responsible era? If you had twenty Caterhams painted in different colours going round a track, no one would notice - it would a close race, with a great atmosphere and a great noise. You don't need to spend £300 million, you need to spend £250 million, if the next guy is spending £240 million and so on people outspend each other. We should limit it, we need a spending cap - it is madness. While the rule makers are cashing in though, and making money out of it, it will stay that way.

Crash.net:
What will Charles Pic bring to the team for the future?

Mike Gascoyne:
Charles is a young guy. He has some financial backing and he has done a decent job against a more experienced team-mate, Timo Glock. Let's see now if he rises to the occasion.

Crash.net:
People are surprised as to why Heikki Kovalainen is not included in this year's team. Was that down to funding or Vitaly Petrov's drive to eleventh place in Brazil?

Mike Gascoyne:
It is actually a great shame. Heikki is a very talented driver, but last year his management did not handle him very well and he has not done himself any favours. It is a tough environment out there for everyone. He has had three years with Caterham, was paid well, and he should have shown more respect about that.

Crash.net:
What are your expectations for 2013, what's going to happen for Caterham?

Mike Gascoyne:
I think budgets will be very hard this year, as I've said, it is tough out there for everyone financially. Maintaining our position as a tenth place team will be the priority. We can't expect anything to happen overnight. But we want to make sure that Caterham Group is financially viable and it builds up its resources to being a long term F1 team - so don't expect overnight changes. Steady investment to make sure we are here in five years, ten years' time and to be a solid midfield team, a fifth to eighth place overall player, is the aim. We realise what the game is. People boom and bust easily. We have come in and done a very steady job compared to other new teams and have been professional. We've taken a step back and said: 'OK we are not going to get there straight away, we need to manage our budgets, mange investment and build up our resources so we are here for the long term'.

Crash.net:
What is the next development stage for Caterham?

Mike Gascoyne:
I think what is important is the automotive development of the Caterham Group - if the group is profitable, then the F1 project will have a long term future, that is where my interest and expertise is. Moving to Leafield is great news, great facilities, we will build it up slowly to make sure it is sustainable.


by Dexter Fielding


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