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Founder Fernandes stands down in Caterham F1 shake-up

November 8, 2012 -- Updated 1641 GMT (0041 HKT)
Tony Fernandes founded the British-based Caterham F1 team in 2010.
Tony Fernandes founded the British-based Caterham F1 team in 2010.
  • Cyril Abiteboul is appointed team principal at struggling Caterham F1
  • Frenchman replaces founder Tony Fernandes as team seeks to improve results
  • Fernandes to concentrate on producing Caterham's road cars with Renault
  • Caterham second from bottom in F1 constructors' championship with two races left

(CNN) -- Entrepreneur Tony Fernandes is taking a back seat at the Formula One team he founded in order to help take it to a new level on the track.

The Malaysian businessman has been replaced as team principal at Caterham F1 by its new French chief executive Cyril Abiteboul, who has been charged with moving the UK-based marque from the lower regions of the championship standings.

AirAsia owner Fernandes, who led the team into F1 in 2010 under the Lotus name, will now concentrate on producing Caterham sports cars in collaboration with Renault.

The 35-year-old Abiteboul, who joined from Renault in September, will combine his new role with his duties as CEO, working with the Caterham group's overall chief Riad Asmat.

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"The strategy for the establishment and growth of Caterham Group has now reached the stage where we can step back from the day-to-day running of the F1 team in favor of Cyril," Fernandes, who also owns English Premier League football team Queens Park Rangers, said in a statement.

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"He will be able to dedicate himself full time to the role and work closely with Riad to help take our automotive interests into the next stage of their growth.

"Cyril is going to be an excellent team principal. He has extensive experience in F1, he is extremely well respected and he shares our vision for what we want our team to achieve.

"He takes over during a season when we have not yet fulfilled our potential, but at a time when we have everything in place to help us do so. One day we will earn our seat at the top table of Formula One and he is the right person to take us there."

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Caterham sit 11th in the 12-team constructors' standings with two races to go, having finished 10th in 2010 and 2011.

The team, sponsored by CNN, is yet to win a point in any of its three F1 seasons, despite a strong current driver lineup of Finland's Heikki Kovalainen and Vitaly Petrov -- the only Russian to have competed in the sport.

"I am honored to take over as team principal," said the 35-year-old Abiteboul, whose first race in charge will be the U.S. Grand Prix at the new Circuit of the Americas in Texas on November 18.

"We have big challenges ahead of us but the shareholders are committed and behind us to help us take significant steps forward over the coming years, and one day challenge for the highest honors in F1.

"This spirit, allied to a strategic vision that gives us a clear path to success, is what will keep driving us forwards and we all look forward to the day we can make the dreams our shareholders had several years ago come true."

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