Caterham’s hopes of being on the grid for next weekend’s grand prix in the United States have been dealt a further blow today.
It has been reported administrators have locked Caterham staff out of the team’s headquarters in Leafield just 48 hours ahead of plans for the cars to be flown to the Circuit of the Americas in Austin.
London-based accountancy firm Smith & Williamson, which is overseeing the administration of Caterham Sports Ltd (CSL) and which has the factory and cars in its possession, has closed the gates after failing to strike an adequate deal following meetings on Wednesday.
CSL make and supply the cars and equipment to F1 entry holder 1MRT, the company behind the marque, and although the administrators had previously allowed use of the factory after moving in on Monday, they have now taken a much tougher approach.
It is understood if a deal can be struck between parties representing all sides then the gates will again be opened and the workers allowed to return to their duties.
However, as a further complication the present owners find themselves in dispute with the former owners and have withdrawn all management, effectively leaving the team rudderless.
The mystery consortium of Swiss and Middle Eastern businessmen who took over Caterham from Tony Fernandes at the end of June are now threatening legal action against the Malaysian entrepreneur.
Via an explosive statement issued on Wednesday, the consortium claim there has been no transfer of shares that would make their ownership of the team legally binding.
In response, Fernandes slated the statement as “garbage”, with his lawyers now looking into the matter, and suggested via his Twitter account the consortium has yet to pay for Caterham.
A post from Fernandes read: “If you buy something you should pay for it. Quite simple.”
The consortium also claimed remarks and statements made by the administrators in recent days “have been severely detrimental to the management of the Caterham F1 team”.
Suggesting it had been “operating the Caterham F1 team in good faith”, the consortium was now exploring all options, as well as instructing its own lawyers to take action against Fernandes.
It added with Fernandes “as an owner”, it was he who would again now “run the F1 operation”.
Time is fast running out for Caterham to not only make the grid in Austin, but also for the final two races in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
The future of the team, and with it the jobs of more than 200 people, are also very much on the line.