- Full name Tony Francis Fernandes
- Birth date April 30, 1964
- Birthplace Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
- Current age 50 years 276 days
- Teams Team Lotus
- Other roles Team Owner, Principal
Tony Fernandes was the founder behind the Caterham F1 team, but despite proven success in business he could not work his magic in the world of F1.
He is the head of AirAsia and took the company from being a failing government-owned airline to one of the leading budget carriers in the world in just eight years. He bought the company for $0.25 (One Malaysian Ringit) and at the time it had only two Boeing 737 jets and $11 million worth of debt. Many onlookers labelled him insane as the deal was made just one month after the September 11 attacks in 2001 when the airline industry was on its knees. However, Fernandes saw the deal in a different light and capitalised on low aircraft leasing costs and employing out of work staff. Following the budget airline business model, AirAsia and its subsidiaries went from strength to strength and is now turning a profit with over 90 aircrafts in its fleet.
In just his first few months of being in charge at his new team he made something of a name for himself. Having previously worked for Virgin Atlantic under Sir Richard Branson, Fernandes joked that he would "retire and kill himself" if he didn't beat Virgin Racing in his debut season. That led to Branson wagering a bet that the boss of the losing team would work as a stewardess on the other's airline. Fernandes accepted and was in particularly high spirits at the season finale when he came out on top by virtue of 13th-placed finishes.
Having previously said he would step down as team principal when he found a suitable candidate, Fernandes has now revealed that he has no plans to move aside and will continue to lead the team into the future.
He earned respect by bringing renowned technical director Mike Gascoyne to the team as well as race winners Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen. In 2010 Lotus Racing (as it was known then) was widely considered to be the most professional of the new teams on the grid and for 2011 Fernandes secured a Renault engine deal and Red Bull gearboxes.
However, a naming row with Group Lotus occupied more column inches than the team's on track efforts in 2011 and was finally put to bed when Fernandes opted to ditch the Team Lotus brand. He decided to take the name from his newly-acquired car business Caterham and moved the team to a new base in Leafield, Oxfordshire.
However, 2014 proved to be even more tricky than the previous four and resulted in Fernandes looking to sell midway through the year. He found his target in the form of a Swiss and Middle Eastern consortium of investors, but when they failed to pay off the team's debts he held on to the shares of the team as it went into administration.
September 20, 2013
© Sutton Images
May 13, 2013
© Getty Images
May 13, 2013
© Getty Images