The announcement seemingly heralds a conceptual split with the Malaysian-owned carmaker of the same name. The manufacturer Group Lotus, which makes cars under the Lotus and Proton banners, has in turn announced that it will field a GP2 outfit under the banner of ‘Lotus Motorsport’, in a partnership with the ART GP2 squad.
The plot thickened further still, with Fernandes himself announcing that he will set up his own GP2 squad ‘Team Air Asia’, named in deference to his low-cost airline.
Confused? So are we … but we’ll try to make sense of it here…
The ‘Team Lotus’ name was owned by David Hunt – brother of the late 1976 World Champion, James – who acquired the rights to the name after the original Team Lotus folded at the end of the 1994 F1 season.
The publicity machine was operating in overdrive on Friday, with Fernandes claiming: “The whole aim was to own our future rather than operate under a [Lotus Racing] licence.
“For next year we will not operate under the Lotus Racing but Team Lotus banner. It will bring history full circle and operate under as Team Lotus as Colin Chapman did,” he added.
However, when pressed on the matter, Fernandes admitted that he would like to see his team and Group Lotus operate in the same cooperative manner in which Colin Chapman’s originally outfit had done from the 1950s.
“We would like to cooperate but if Group Lotus doesn’t want to then there’s not much we can do about it,” he said. “It makes sense if they did.
“If I was sitting there and there was a Formula 1 team going around the world with 20 races, promoting a brand, if I was the CEO, I would definitely want to get involved, especially if I’m not putting any money in it,” he added.
Fernandes was expected to communicate other announcements, which were believed to include its engine partner for 2011 (widely believed to be Renault), in addition to its driver line-up and sponsorship portfolio for next season.
Fernandes was relatively coy on these counts, and explained that this information would be communicated at a later date.
It is believed that both Heikki Kovalainen and Jarno Trulli have put their signatures to renewed contracts for the 2011 season.
[Original image via Sutton Images]