Following Caterham’s sale to a group of Swiss and Middle Eastern investors, there is general uncertainty surrounding the team’s future in Formula One.
But perhaps the best solution to their problems will come from inside the sport. Because it has been mooted that Red Bull could forge closer links with the British squad, keeping the green cars on the grid while finding a home for their own latest talents.
Caterham already use Red Bull gearboxes, and in 2015 they will be one of only three teams running Renault engines, alongside Red Bull and their junior squad Toro Rosso. In this respect at least, it make sense for the three outfits to work together.
But it is not only in engineering matters that synergy could exists. According to recent reports, Red Bull’s top young driver, Spaniard Carlos Sainz Jr., could be placed with Caterham later this season. It wouldn’t be surprising to see such a move - remember that Red Bull handed Daniel Ricciardo his break with tail-enders HRT in mid-2011.
Red Bull clearly need more space for their drivers in F1. Sainz looks set to win the Formula Renault 3.5 championship, while Britain’s Alex Lynn leads the GP3 standings. Should they claim their respective titles, both would deserve an immediate promotion to F1.
But there’s no room. The main Red Bull team is full, and while Jean-Eric Vergne could be dropped by Toro Rosso there is no chance that the hugely impressive Daniil Kvyat will not be retained. Three drivers, two seats.
Through a closer tie-up with Caterham, Red Bull would create space for more of their prospects. In 2015 they would have the option of running Kvyat and Sainz at Toro Rosso, while Lynn could land at Caterham. They could even go a step further by buying both seats at the Leafield-based team, perhaps drafting in Antonio Felix da Costa or even finding a new home for Vergne, who remains highly rated by the Red Bull and Toro Rosso hierarchies. The company also has Pierre Gasly on its books, and the Frenchman should be more than ready for F1 by 2016.
Red Bull’s support would also help to keep Caterham afloat and guarantee quality drivers in their cars - just as they did by buying Minardi in 2005. Caterham are currently financially unstable (to put it politely) and must run paying drivers. While Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson are capable enough, the prospect of Lynn being in one of the green cars is far more exciting.
No one is suggesting a full buy-out of Caterham with Toro Rosso-style rebranding. But forging closer ties with the team - helping them out with money and giving them talented drivers in return - would benefit everyone. It also makes sense to have access to their data as Red Bull lead the push to get Renault back to the front.
The Red Bull young driver programme is increasingly becoming a victim of its own success. For several years Sebastian Vettel was the only standout graduate, but Ricciardo’s heroics at the senior squad this season and Kvyat’s impressive debut have left them with an embarrassment of riches. Working with Caterham would give them somewhere to place their latest rapid rookies.