The war of word between Team Lotus and the Group Lotus carmaker shows no sign of slowing down, with Team Lotus boss Tony Fernandes launching his most sharp-tongued riposte against the Malaysian-owned car maker who terminated its license for the airline magnate to use the ‘Lotus’ name for his own F1 team.
Well it seems that Tony – whose legal team is set to argue the matter in London’s High Court next week – has finally snapped
The dispute stems from Group Lotus having now entered into a title sponsorship arrangement with the Renault F1 team as part of its own broader foray into motorsport, with all the signs pointing to a complete takeover and rebranding of Renault in the coming years.
Having Fernandes’ operation trying to use the same name doesn’t sit well with those at Group Lotus, who have set about on their own campaign to garner public support with a string of measures, including the running of a black-and-gold livery in tribute to the days of the JPS-sponsored Lotus team, as well as securing the support of the Chapman family (something Fernandes’ outfit had managed to acquire just a year before), former Grand Prix driver Jean Alesi as a brand ambassador, and a Malaysian test driver in the form of Fairuz Fauzy.
But Fernandes took to Twitter overnight, blasting Group Lotus’ dogged insistence that it apparently held sole rights to the use of the Lotus moniker in F1 and that its title sponsorship of Renault now qualifies it to be the ‘real Lotus’.
To support his argument, the entrepreneur has likened his actions – whereby he has bought the rights to the ‘Team Lotus’ name privately – to that of McLaren’s transformation (from when it was founded by Bruce McLaren in the 1950s to being taken over and revitalised when Ron Dennis bought into it in the 1980s).
“Let’s get a few things straight,” Fernandes started. “You set up a separate company from [another] car company to protect car company from racing’s up and downs.
“[Lotus F1 team] company goes into liquidation. Bought by David Hunt. Sixteen years [of] no racing. Team bought from David Hunt by Nasa, Din and Tony.
“We are no different from Ron Dennis at McLaren,” he added. “End of story.
“Ron Dennis didn’t start McLaren, Bruce McLaren did,” he continued. “Proton and [current Group Lotus boss] Dany Bahar didn’t start Group Lotus. Colin Chapman did. What’s the difference?”
“Proton own Group Lotus and Din, me and Nasa own Team Lotus.
“Lotus Renault is a Renault, end of story. McLaren is McLaren, not Vodafone and Mercedes is Mercedes not Petronas Mercedes or a Petronas car. End of story.”
These are certainly some very strong views from Fernandes, but to liken his situation to that of McLaren – when he has not bought an existing team, but simply a defunct team’s name – is perhaps a step too far on the analogy front.
What are your thoughts?