Caterham F1 Team to make season finale, still lays off 230 workers

When the chips were down, and looked down for the count, the Caterham F1 Team launched a crowd-funding campaign to get back on the grid in time for the season finale. And now, it seems, they have succeeded.

The troubled back-marker team seems to have changed leadership this season as many times as it has changed tires: After starting the 2014 championship under the direction of founder Tony Fernandes, a consortium lead by former F1 driver Christijan Albers took control. Then Albers was ousted and former HRT chief Manfredi Ravetto took over. But when Ravetto and his team failed to make a go of it, authority was shifted to a team of bankruptcy administrators.

It was those bankers who launched the fundraising effort on, raising over £1 million in just 48 hours. That was enough to get them partway there, but after another several days, the team has raised almost another million for a total of £1.92 million – equivalent to over $3 million at today's exchange rates. That sum is still 19-percent short of the total goal of £2.35 million ($3.68M), but apparently enough to secure its place on the grid at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that will close out the season.

Just who will drive the two cars, however, is another matter. The team confirmed that Kamui Kobayashi, who has driven for Caterham all season, will be driving one of the cars, but has not yet announced who the second driver will be. Having signed with Sauber for next season, Marcus Ericsson has reportedly severed ties with Caterham. Three-time Le Mans winner André Lotterer, who drove for the team earlier this season at Spa (but failed to make it to the finish line) is said to have been offered another drive at Abu Dhabi next weekend, but the team's Spanish test driver Roberto Merhi reportedly claims to have the right of first refusal if either Ericsson or Kobayashi aren't driving. Rumors also suggest that the well-financed Max Chilton, who was left without a ride when the Marussia team similarly collapsed, could switch the Caterham for the final race.

Unfortunately, the drivers aren't the only members of the team with a question mark looming over their heads. Despite the fundraising success, the team had to lay off some 230 members of its workforce, bringing only the forty personnel it needs to run at the race in Abu Dhabi. Perhaps the most interesting part is that the employees themselves – many of whom haven't been paid for months – asked to be laid off so that they could begin the month-long process of claiming back pay as part of the bankruptcy process.

Speaking with Reuters, Finbarr O'Connell – the bankruptcy administrator effectively running the team – said that only 17 of Caterham's 230 employees did not ask to be made redundant (British-speak for laid off) in the apparent hope that the team could still be saved in the long term – in which case many, if not all, of the laid-off workers would hopefully be re-hired.

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