LONDON (Reuters) - Caterham have been told they can miss the next two Formula One grands prix while seeking a buyer after the team went into administration on Friday.
Formula One’s commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone told Reuters “it would be OK” for the team to sit out next week’s U.S. race, and Brazil the weekend after, in the hope a new owner emerged before next month’s finale in Abu Dhabi.
“I wonder if they are going to do it (find a buyer),” Ecclestone said. “Let’s hope it’s alright and someone might come along and they may be able to do something.”
He added that there would be no problem with a reduction to 10 F1 teams anyway.
The sale of Caterham, who have not scored a point since their debut in 2010, was made simpler by the decision to take the licence holder 1MRT into administration along with the manufacturer Caterham Sports Limited (CSL).
The move left Finbarr O‘Connell, who was already an administrator of CSL, in charge although he made clear it was merely a question of looking for a buyer.
“We believe this arrangement gives us a much better chance of being able to reach a better conclusion for the racing team and its creditors,” he said in a statement.
“While this is a great step forward in making the whole team and assets more attractive, there is no need for the staff of 1MRT to return to the Oxford site in Leafield until a sale of the Formula One team occurs.”
The statement, issued by London firm Smith & Williamson, said the administrators had agreed terms to acquire the share capital of 1MRT and were now in a position to sell the racing licence along with the cars, designs and intellectual property.
It added that Ecclestone, in a telephone conversation with O‘Connell, had agreed “to support the administrators in their wish to sell the Formula One team to a party with the financial strength to sustain it into the future”.
To help with that, he had given “dispensation” to miss the coming two races.
The administrators added they had already been contacted by a number of interested parties and hoped “a transaction with an operator of substantial financial means can be concluded in the next few weeks”.
Friday’s move followed a war of words between 1MRT management and founder Tony Fernandes, who also runs struggling Premier League soccer club Queens Park Rangers and the fast-growing AirAsia airline, over the transfer of ownership.
Fernandes announced the sale of the team in July but both sides have acknowledged the formal transfer of shares was not completed.
Neither appeared willing to take the team further, with 1MRT management effectively walking away after agreeing to hand over to O‘Connell “in the higher interest of allowing the team to continue operating and preparing for the next events”.
The cars would normally leave the factory on Saturday to be flown to the United States and O‘Connell telling staff to stay away indefinitely makes Caterham’s absence inevitable.
“It’s very important to us that they race but for the creditors of Caterham Sports Limited it’s not up to them to fund racing,” O‘Connell told the BBC earlier.
“Our objective is to get this team racing on a proper financial standing. Hopefully if a funder comes through, this team can run again.”
Caterham’s drivers are Japan’s Kamui Kobayashi and Sweden’s Marcus Ericsson.
Editing by Tony Jimenez