Whose airline is the best?

Lotus F1 Team Principal Tony Fernandes has pledged his team will beat the Virgin-backed Manor team in its debut season in Formula One.

Lotus, Manor, Campos and USF1 will all be new additions to the grid in 2010 but Fernandes, who previously worked under Sir Richard Branson at Virgin and is now the CEO of low-cost carrier AirAsia, said he was totally dedicated to beating his rival airline sponsor.

"I said that number one we have to be ahead of Branson, otherwise I will retire and kill myself," he said at the motorsport business forum. "We think we are going to have a very reasonable car. We know we aren’t going to be competing [near the front] in year one, but it takes time and we’ll have a good basis for moving forward."

The new teams will all be running on low budgets next year as they signed up to the sport on the back of the FIA’s budget cap proposal – which eventually morphed into a resource restriction agreement. Fernandes said he will run Lotus on a budget of £55M.

"Obviously at one stage we were ready to put a team out at £40M because that’s what we were told the cap was going to be," he said. "Obviously we’re in favour of having less money to build a car but it’s still exciting."

He added that his team will eventually enjoy a closer partnership with Lotus road cars, which currently lends its name to the team but does not own it.

"We have a licensing agreement with Lotus owner Proton and over time that relationship will grow," he said. "Lotus will probably buy into the team at some stage. More and more technology from our side will flow into Lotus cars and we will promote the Lotus brand. I see it in time being no different from how Ferrari works."

I wonder what Force India owner, Vijay Mallya, who also owns Kingfisher Airlines has to say about another airline owner coming onto his turf?

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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.