Exclusive interview with Christijan Albers
5 August 2014 – Christijan Albers recently returned to Formula 1 as Caterham's new team boss, following a takeover by a group of Swiss and Middle Eastern investors. GPUpdate.net caught up with the former Minardi, Midland and Spyker driver at the start of the summer break to discuss his time at the outfit so far and what the future holds.
How was your first month as team boss?
It was interesting. You get an impression of a lot of things during those first days. I was pretty impressed with everything going on at the factory in Leafield. I was also very impressed with the way the factory has been set up and all the people who work there. What I also noticed was that many people are a little bit depressed because they haven't achieved anything in four years. People were struggling with their motivation, but we are now trying to breathe new life into the team.
On a less encouraging note, there have been some redundancies. What can you say about that?
I do not want to comment much on this, because it is a sensitive issue. What I would like to say is that we applied a new structure to the team, in which I am very confident, with John Iley as Technical Director, Keith Barclay as Chief Designer and Miodrag Kotur as Team Manager, beside myself. I think this team can be very successful and this is, in my opinion, the most important thing.
How did you get involved in the Caterham sale?
I have not worked for the past two years, due to family circumstances. The situation at home is now such that I can work again. Since April, I was having a little look around and then this opportunity arrived. Colin Kolles, a consultant in the project and somebody with whom I've previously worked, contacted me. He saw a role for me in this team, because on the one hand I have a lot of business experience – I have several successful businesses – and on the other hand a lot of technical know-how of a Formula 1 car.
This must mean that you will not be racing in the World Endurance Championship or Formula E?
Correct. I think you should always be realistic in life. I have been very successful as a driver. I earned a good living from racing, but at a certain point you should stop. I also became more succesful in business than in racing. In addition, after 18 years of racing I was ready for something different. This is a new challenge, a completely different kind of life. That's exciting.
Can you tell us about your business successes?
I'd rather not talk about this. I always prefer to play the role of the underdog, you know. I don't think it's very interesting. But they are nice companies that are active around the world. I'm no longer involved on a daily basis. Each company has its own CEO and runs itself.
What are the goals for the rest of the season?
Our goal is obviously to move forward in the championship. It would be great if we can succeed in this. We need to succeed. This will not be easy but we are willing to fight hard and do everything that is necessary.
What is possible under the new ownership, in the long term?
We have been working hard on the car for 2015. We'll have the car in the windtunnel soon. We are also working hard on upgrades for the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps. It's a race against the clock. We now have a summer break of two weeks, which doesn't make it easier for us. We will spend as much time as possible to improve the car.
Is it true that the car will get a new nose?
We will see at Spa.
How is the search for new sponsors going?
We are working very hard on this. Our focus as a team is more on business-to-business, linking businesses with each other. I think there is much more out there for us to get.
Do you expect support from Dutch businesses?
I hope that there will be. I hope Dutch companies see that Formula 1 offers a good platform for making contact with other companies and attracting more business.
Is your future with the team good news for reserve driver Robin Frijns?
Of course, I have more of a feeling for a Dutch driver. Let's just say that Robin can still improve in many ways. I think he should focus even better on that. I have not seen him in the car enough to say more about him. We'll see what the future brings.
Does Max Verstappen have your attention?
He is performing very well at the moment. We have to see how well he does in the next series he races in. According to rumours he has signed a contract with Red Bull. I do not know if that story is true, but he is doing a super job. I will follow him for sure. I am always interested in young talents who are fast. Max is certainly one.
Can you guarantee that Kamui Kobayashi and Marcus Ericsson will finish the season?
It's very simple. As long as the drivers are performing, they will stay in the car.