The Lotus team is closing in on a deal that could see to switch to Renault power for the 2011 season, but the stumbling block could prove on being able to get out of its deal with its current engine supplier, Cosworth, which still has two seasons to run.
The rumours were first floated earlier in August, and it is understood that an in-principle deal has been agreed to the engine deal with Renault for a customer engine supply deal that would see it receive the same engine specifications as Renault’s other customer team, Red Bull Racing.
With Lotus having endured a frustrating amount of reliability issues from its gearbox and hydraulics supplied by third-party group Xtrac, it is believed to have tried to seek a different supply arrangement with another partner.
And it is believed that in stepped Renault, who seemed more than willing to supply its gearbox and transmission units, but on the back of a push to increase the number of customer engine deals it has, it may have offered a sweetener of a discounted engine supply as part of the entire deal.
Before Lotus can sign on the dotted line, the shadow that overhangs the entire arrangement is their current three-year deal with Cosworth, and it is believed that the contract is fairly watertight and would prove difficult to break unless Cosworth was willing to do so.
The two potential scenarios would either be that Cosworth is compensated for the breach in contract, or that Renault is forced to see out its deal before possibly switching to Renault customer engines at the end of the 2012 season.
Both Lotus and Cosworth have kept fairly quiet with respect to these rumours, and each appears to insist that the status quo will remain.
Lotus’ technical chief Mike Gascoyne was asked to comment on the latest rumours, and said: “We’ve got a contract with Cosworth and there is no further comment to make.”
Cosworth’s general manager of F1 operations, Mark Gallagher added: “As with the other new teams [Virgin Racing and HRT], Lotus has a fixed term three-year contract with Cosworth and we are very pleased it is happy with our engines and the job we have done for it during its first season in Formula 1.”
In its earlier guise, Lotus enjoyed a successful partnership using Renault turbo engines between 1983-6, achieving five wins and nineteen pole positions.
[Original image via The Cahier Archive]