Yet another chapter in the ‘Lotus and Lotus’ saga has been written: this time it seems there is dissention in the Lotus F1 ranks, with the F1 team announcing that it has terminated its title sponsorship deal with sports car manufacturer Group Lotus. On the flipside, the team has announced that it will continue to keep the ‘Lotus’ name alive in Formula 1. Confused? We are too…
To be honest, most F1 journalists saw this coming many months ago. Group Lotus has been mired in debt for years, and the Malaysian government (which owned Group Lotus and Proton under the one umbrella) offloaded the entire carmaker group in a bid to relieve it of some of the massive debts that Group Lotus was creating.
Under recently-appointed CEO Dany Bahar, Group Lotus has been trying to position itself as this ‘alternative Porsche’, but it has neither the funding nor the customer base to make this happen. Equally, the operation has little in the way of a manufacturing base, and its strategy (so far) has been to whack its stickers on cars in as many racing categories as possible, including IndyCar, GP2 and GP3 championships, among others.
The split between Lotus F1 and Group Lotus is off the back of Group Lotus not paying any money to the F1 team bearing its name. It is understood that the terms of separation are for the title sponsorship deal to be cancelled, along with the option for Proton to buy 50% of the team being annulled.
But the Lotus F1 team is unable to divorce itself completely from the relationships because its F1 chassis’ are now called ‘Lotus’ – it changed from its previous ‘Renault’ moniker in a costly off-season exercise and the FIA will frown upon another name change in such a short timeframe.
The situation leaves the F1 team’s owners, GenII Capital, in the prime position to acquire Group Lotus. But will it want to acquire Group Lotus’ massive debts? That seems unlikely at this point.