The Lotus car company has finally confirmed what we all suspected and announced it has bought into the Renault F1 team for the 2011 season and beyond, effectively easing the way for Renault to start its slow-down in its involvement with the sport from that of a constructor to an engine supplier.
It had been expected that Group Lotus – affiliated with the Malaysian government owned car company Proton – would collaborate with Renault either as a title sponsor or by buying equity in the Formula 1 team. The deal sees the sponsorship agreement run until at least the end of the 2017 season.
The news will seriously confuse matters for Formula 1 fans, with this announcement being entirely separate from the Tony Fernandes owned ‘Team Lotus’ effort (nee Lotus Racing), which has been operation for a season already under what Group Lotus claims was simply a license – now since revoked – to use the Lotus name.
“I can think of no better platform for automotive brand communications than motorsport and F1 is the very pinnacle of open-wheel racing,” said CEO of Group Lotus, Dany Behar. “We’re well aware that there has been a lot of controversy around the usage of our brand in F1 and I’m delighted to be able to formally clarify our position once and for all: we are Lotus and we are back.”
As part of the announcement, the team unveiled a new livery mock-up (pictured), with a clear tribute being made to the John Player cigarettes black-and-gold livery used by Colin Chapman’s Lotus F1 team in the 1970s.
While Renault may be scaling back its involvement, the cars will still be called ‘Renaults’ next year (a name change needs the approval of all the grid’s teams in order for the entry not to lose its claim on the TV revenue earned in 2009, and ‘Team Lotus’ most certainly won’t give that support), although the outfit will no doubt be hoping that the public starts to refer to them as ‘Lotus’ in due course.
The mock-up also shows no sponsorship support from HP or LADA, both of whom were sponsors of the team in 2009, and again the rumours indicate that Vitaly Petrov will be retained alongside Robert Kubica.
The dispute with Team Lotus over the use of the Lotus name is still awaiting argument in London’s High Court, and they may or may not agree with Mr Behar’s opinion.
What is definitely uncertain now is what will happen, and how the ongoing dispute over the use of the Lotus name will pan out in the courts. This effectively leaves fans with the worst possible situation: four cars on the grid trying to claim the Lotus name. Worse still: both teams intend to use that iconic black and gold livery.
It is this author’s opinion that such a situation is completely daft. While both team may have equally valid rights to the use of the Lotus name, for either to claim that they therefore have credible rights to the Lotus heritage is absurd.
This is going to be a bitter and protracted legal dispute, and hardly good for the image of the sport or Lotus at all. It certainly gets our thumbs down…