The war of words between Lotus Racing boss Tony Fernandes and Group Lotus CEO Dany Bahar shows no sign of abating, with Fernandes rejecting Bahar’s claims that he priced Bahar out of a deal to commercially tie up the two outfits.
Bahar had claimed in a media lunch earlier this week that he had made overtures to do a deal with Fernandes, but abandoned the move when Renault apparently agreed to terms for about a third of Fernandes’ alleged asking price.
Group Lotus then announced its commercial tie in with the Renault F1 team, which will effectively see two separate teams on the grid calling themselves ‘Lotus Renault’ (by dint of Lotus Racing operating with Renault engines in 2011.
But Fernandes has quickly rejected Bahar’s claims, and has called for the mud-slinging to stop.
“There was no such thing as an offer,” he told AUTOSPORT. “There is an understanding that Lotus’s involvement with Renault is worth £20 million, which would therefore mean that I was seeking £60 million – which is a complete fabrication.
“We never got past an initial dinner meeting. Dany Bahar and [Fernandes’ off-sider] Riad Asmat met and that was it. No offers were ever exchanged,” he added.
“I can state categorically that there is no way we were three times more expensive. Dany got it into his mind that Mike Gascoyne was old school and that it would take a long, long time for Lotus Racing to be a challenger at the top.
“I think with the package we have got, towards the end of next season we will be not very far away from Renault F1 and if he had been a bit more patient, given it a bit more time and been open to news then a super collaboration could have happened.”
Bahar also claimed that Fernandes also refused to relinquish operating control of his team under the terms of such an arrangement, a claim that the airline magnate also rejects.
“We were very open to equity sharing, working together and other combinations. We wanted it to work for the good of the Lotus brand – and it made sense to combine,” he added.
Fernandes repeated his concerns that the ongoing war of words is doing nothing to enhance either side’s position – or indeed provide any benefit to the Lotus brand – and has called for the fighting to stop.
“Over the last few days I have had attacks from Dany Bahar, [Renault F1 bosses] Eric Boullier and Gerard Lopez. Personally I think it has got a little bit out of hand and a lot of it is fabricated.
“This will be my last statement on the matter and hopefully some common sense will arise … There have been so many accusations that we have had to defend our position. If Group Lotus value the brand then we should try and find a solution to this. We are open to that.”
And so say all of us!