The Lotus F1 Team is facing a major headache in days before the upcoming Hungarian Grand Prix, where its lawyers will have to address a winding-up petition at a hearing in London’s Companies Court.
The hearing, originally scheduled for the Monday after last weekend’s British Grand Prix – where both cars embarrassingly retired after a coming-together on the first lap of the race – has been delayed by two weeks in order to give the team and its creditors time to thrash out a deal that won’t involve a court hearing.
If there is no resolution, the Companies Court could rule to put Lotus into administration, which could cast doubts over its future in a sport where the Caterham F1 Team was forced to shut down during the 2014-15 off-season after finding itself in similar strife.
Lotus has debts to a number of creditors, including gearbox component supplier Xtrac, which has confirmed its bills have been unpaid for 15 months.
“Xtrac has manufactured a significant quantity of parts in good faith to ensure the cars can keep running,” a spokesperson told the Motorsport.com website.
“We have enjoyed a long standing relationship with Lotus F1 and its management, and we hope to resume this once the now significant debt has been reduced and a positive outcome agreed.”
Lotus’ financial woes have been well documented in its current incarnation where its ownership is significantly held by Luxembourg-based investment firm, Genii Capital.
The team parted ways with star driver Kimi Räikkönen in 2013 over claims of unpaid salaries, and it shed a significant number of talented engineering staff in the same fallout.
The team suffered an uncompetitive 2014 campaign, with the delayed launch of its new car leading to a miserable season where the team scraped a handful of points.
The team’s CEO Matthew Carter has acted as the team’s spokesperson by denying suggestions that the team’s finances are in dire straights, but the actual truth is rather different.
Clearly the team is being drip-fed enough money from its owners to keep it going, but the fact is – despite its denials – that the team is for sale.
The question is who would step in with an offer.
Renault is known to be canvassing a return to Formula 1 as a fully-fledged constructor, having apparently held discussions with Force India and Toro Rosso, but it remains to be seen what (if anything) will come.
Paddock gossip suggests that a deal is almost done to reacquire the team it sold to Genii Capital, although perhaps it might wait for an administration ruling to help drive down the price (although that in itself would probably mean assuming responsibility for the team’s outstanding debts).
It’s a messy situation indeed…
Image via XPB Images