In a last-ditch effort to move up the grid, Caterham overlooked some of the most lucrative ‘pay drivers’ for the 2014 season.
Although his fans pledged their own money towards his return to F1, the popular and feisty Kamui Kobayashi admitted he is only contributing a modest amount – less than $2 million – to the Tony Fernandes-led team’s budget.
“Unfortunately it is not enough to get a seat,” the Japanese told Britain’s Sky, “but hopefully this is a good indication and a message to Tony Fernandes”.
And also in contrast to his main race seat rival Heikki Kovalainen, who needed to be paid a salary in 2014, Kobayashi revealed that he will be driving for nothing this year.
That is despite the fact Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali offered him a new deal to race GT sports cars in 2014, where he would have been paid real money.
“Stefano is not happy I didn’t take it,” Kobayashi smiled, “but it (racing for free) is my decision, my approach and this appeals to Tony, this was my message to Tony.”
Indeed, Fernandes said that while the contribution of Kobayashi’s fans is appreciated, the less than $2 million offering “makes no difference” in the context of massive F1 budgets.
It is those massive budgets, and a lack of success so far, that have Air Asia chief Fernandes’ patience almost at an end for formula one.
Frustrated by the uphill battle to level the playing field in pitlane, he admitted that 2014 could be Caterham’s last roll of the dice.
“If we’re at the back again I don’t think I’m going to carry on,” he said during a media day at the team’s Leafield base.
“Nothing is set in stone, but after five years with no points there is a limit to one’s patience, money, motivation, so it’s an important year,” added Fernandes.
Another example of Caterham’s final push is that it is moving its wind tunnel programme this year into the state-of-the-art Toyota facility in Cologne, as also used by Ferrari.