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Fernandes to step down as Caterham F1 principal

Malaysia's AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes speaks during a news conference at Forbes Global CEO Conference in Kuala Lumpur September 14, 20
Malaysia's AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes speaks during a news conference at Forbes Global CEO Conference in Kuala Lumpur September 14, 20

LONDON (Reuters) - Malaysian aviation entrepreneur Tony Fernandes is planning to step down as principal of the Caterham Formula One team this year and has already identified a successor from within the sport.

The AirAsia airline boss, who announced a deal between Caterham and Renault on Monday that will revive the Alpine sportscar brand, told Autosport and Autocar magazines that he would now hand over his F1 duties.

"On the racing side we have come to the conclusion that it is better if someone else takes over the team principal role to move forward," he said.

"We are definitely better at business than finding tenths of seconds around a lap. It was right for us to lead the team initially and set a template of how it should be. That vision is now set and the team is ready to move forward to the midfield."

Fernandes came into Formula One as a principal in 2010 with Lotus Racing, subsequently renamed Team Lotus and then Caterham from this season. He said at the time that he did not intend to stay long-term at the helm.

The team, one of three newcomers that year, have yet to score a point. Their current drivers are Finland's Heikki Kovalainen and Russian Vitaly Petrov.

They have finished 10th overall for the past two seasons but have been overtaken by Marussia this season and have just two races remaining to regain the position, which will involve getting one of their cars into 12th place or higher.

Fernandes, who also controls struggling Premier League Queens Park Rangers soccer club, has not attended many Formula One races this season due to his many commitments.

Asked who would replace him at Renault-powered Caterham, he replied: "I cannot tell you their name yet. All I can say is that they are from within F1."

British-based Caterham F1 named Renault Sport F1 deputy managing director Cyril Abiteboul as their new CEO in September. He is due to take over the job full time in January.

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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