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New Lotus team gets BMW Sauber’s slot on the F1 grid
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New Lotus team gets BMW Sauber’s slot on the F1 grid
Posted By: James Allen  |  15 Sep 2009   |  9:10 am GMT  |  58 comments

I’ve just had a note through from the FIA to say that they have awarded the 13th slot on the F1 grid next year to Lotus, the Norfollk based car maker, which is backed by the Malaysians.

The team principal is Tony Fernandes, the boss of Williams sponsor Air Asia. The team’s technical chief is Mike Gascoyne, formerly of Renault and Toyota. The team will be based on Norfolk initially, however as it will race under the Malaysian flag, it is building an R&D and manufacturing centre at Sepang, home of the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Danny Bahar, formerly Red Bull and Ferrari brand chief joined Lotus recently.

The team will use Cosworth engines, which means that USF1 might find it easier to move away from Cosworth onto a Ferrari or Toyota unit as even without them Cosworth will have the three teams it requires to make its F1 project viable.

The FIA statement says, “The FIA also received an impressive application from the BMW Sauber Team. However, given that BMW has announced it will withdraw its support in 2010, there are still uncertainties regarding the future ownership of the team.

“Nevertheless, the FIA considers that BMW Sauber’s application is of high quality and would constitute a competitive participant in the Championship. As such, it has awarded BMW Sauber the ’14th place’ in the Championship meaning that it will be entitled to fill any vacancy that arises on the 2010 grid.

“In addition, the FIA believes that a good case can be made for expanding the grid to 14 teams. The FIA will be consulting urgently with the existing teams regarding the introduction of an appropriate rule change to expand the grid to 28 cars in time for the first Grand Prix in 2010.”

I’ve heard that BMW is also thinking of using the Sauber base at Hinwil for an R&D center for electric vehicles. The full size wind tunnel there is a viable business in itself.

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58 Comments
  1. Slowflow says:

    Interesting development.

    James.

    Have you heard anything about the rumour that Jenson is asking for a £5 million pay increase, from brawn GP, to secure him for next session?

  2. I don’t like this. There are serious doubts that any of the new teams can make a car in time, yet Prodrive and Lola (who have a wind tunnel model) were not allowed entry. Sauber would have made it next year, I am sure.

    Perhaps the FIA are certain either Renault or Toyota will pull out? I have a bad feeling both will?

    One other thing – why restrict the entry to 13
    teams anyway? Let everyone who wants a go have a go and bring back pre-qualifying – that will raise the bar for everybody.

  3. jw1980 says:

    James,

    surely having the 14th team gives an insurance against a possible Renault withdrawal because of Singapore or other reasons. In addition would it not be wise to have a fifteenth team to cover against a possible Toyota pullout? No mention of Epsilon Euskadi? They looked creditable to me.
    It would be great to have 30 cars and reintroduce dnqs. Remember when world champion Nelson Piquet dnq one race and then won the next or one after in the 80s? That could have happened to Hamilton this year?
    However, in this day and age it’s difficult to see how a team, business or whatever you want to call it could survive with numerous dnqs.
    Most circuits could easily accommodate 28 cars now anyway. Even Monaco went to a 26 car grid eventually after years of 20 car grids.
    The Lotus project does sound exciting and the battle of the new teams in itself will create interest next year….

  4. Treebeard says:

    If the FIA did go ahead with the 14 teams would be like in the past with only 26 drivers making the grid and 2 missing out or would they have all 28 drivers being in the race?

  5. Alistair Blevins says:

    James,

    Excellent news! I don’t know whether to be more excited about the return of Lotus, or the potential expansion of the grid to 28 cars.

    Is there anything in the woodwork that would have FOTA put the stoppers on this?

    Of course, the bigger grid size is not confirmed – so I’m assuming this will make the sale of BMW Sauber all the more difficult…

    Any news on that front? I haven’t read of many potential buyers making a beeline for Hinwil.

    1. Rich C says:

      Dont get too excited – its not really Lotus. Just some guy that bought a name from the dust bin of history.
      And its shameful. I hope they fail immediately.

      1. Paul Moss says:

        erm..its the same people that MAKE Lotus cars now. Are they shameful? Would you have them fail immediately too?
        If anything i’d question the backer’s motives and ‘are they in it for the long-haul’? Its politically-motivated and after the BMW experience i cant help worrying about ‘motive’.

      2. Rich C says:

        It is NOT the same ppl. Check this item from Wiki:

        Following the 1994 collapse, the rights to the name Team Lotus were purchased by David Hunt, brother of former F1 champion James Hunt.[3] In 2009, when the FIA announced an intention to invite entries for a budget-limited championship in 2010, Litespeed acquired the right to submit an entry under the historic name.[4] Lotus Cars, the sister company of the original Team Lotus, distanced itself from the new entry and announced its willingness to take action to protect its name and reputation if necessary.[5] When the 2010 entry list was released on 12 June 2009, the Litespeed Team Lotus entry was not one of those selected.[6] In September 2009, reports emerged of plans for the Malaysian Government to back a Lotus named entry for the 2010 championship to promote the Malaysian car manufacturer Proton, which owns Lotus Cars.[7] On 15 September 2009 the FIA announced that Lotus F1 Team (note not Team Lotus) had been granted admission into the 2010 season.[8

  6. Finn says:

    Any guess/indications as to who their drivers will be?

  7. piotr says:

    James,
    Does this mean that Renault has been already considered excluded from next yeat championship?

    1. Rich C says:

      Didn’t they sign this new COncorde agreement and agree to stay in for X years?

  8. Jonathan Kelk says:

    James,

    Would there be logistical problems for the circuits if there were 14 teams? How many garages do they typically have?

  9. James + others reading

    Come next year will any of the new teams challenge the front runners or will there be more of a rear field battle between the new boys with this years rear runners contending mid-field?
    It seems that Mclaren and Ferarri have their acts together slightly better so should be fighting upfront from the beginning – Red Bull and Branw in their too or fighting for places 5-8?

    1. Stevie P says:

      You could include Force India in there now too Andrew. As for the new boys… absolutely no chance!!! Can’t see the Cossie giving enough grunt, so maybe if USF1 can move to another engine (as speculated somewhere) they might make an impact, but I believe Peter Windsor is playing down their ambitions for next season anyway… it’s a learning year for all the new teams.

      I think James wrote an article earlier in the year saying that Brawn would look good for next season, as next years cars will be more “evolution” than “revolution” (as we’ve had this year with the big reg changes).

      You’ve got to say that McLaren and Ferrari will be in the mix – they’ve improved so much throughout this season and they will improve during the off season, with the knowledge \ data gleaned from this season.

      I guess it’s about KERS (to go with it or not; despite the gentlemans agreement within FOTA) and full fuel tanks (how do you preserve the tyres etc).

      I wonder if it’ll be a black coloured Lotus? (I loved the JPS – it looked mean!) Or British Racing Green? Or perhaps day-glo Orange… now wouldn’t that look lovely alongside the Brawn ;-)

      1. James Allen says:

        Brawn have proper funding for next year as well, so they look pretty tidy. It’s still a big change to a 160kg fuel tank though, lengthens the car and adds more weight

      2. John says:

        I wouldn’t rush to count Force India as a top runner just yet. All year, they have had a care that is fast in a straight line. It’s only been in the last two–low downforce–races that FI has come to the front. Let’s wait and see how they do when we get back to some more normal circuits with more aero demands before we include FI as a front runner.

  10. Snail says:

    however as it will race under the Malaysian flag, it is building an R&D and manufacturing centre at Sepang, home of the Malaysian Grand Prix.

    I think that is going to turn out to be a major mistake, if they really are going to do most/all of their R&D there.

    1) Nowhere near all the facilities concentrated in the UK. So any specialist custom work that could be quickly turned around can only be done with added delay and the cost of international courier flights.

    2) LIkewise, any parts developed in Malaysia will have to be shipped all over the place to various grand prixs, half of which are still in Europe. Its additional logistics, complications, more scope for error, less scope for a quick fix and additional cost that is un-necessary.

    Unless this Malaysian R&D facility is purely for show so they can fly the flag, I think this will hamper the team on occasions when it wouldn’t normally do so.

    1. Jason C says:

      Exactly what I was thinking. They’ve got to have something based in Malaysia though, after the government, Petronas and Proton have put money into it. I hope for their sake that they’re not planning to use it to design or manufacture the f1 cars.

  11. martin_tf says:

    Will be great to see Lotus back on the grid. Lets hope for Green and Yellow to make a come back. Not sure about moving it to Malaysia though. They should stay in the UK.

    1. Racing not politics says:

      hear hear on the colour scheme

  12. Michael says:

    I’m not sure about whether I like this as it looks like another way of attempting to profiteer from the far east. I would much prefer to see Dave Richards have an entry with more chance of being competitive than a team just starting up because they own the rights to a famous name.

    I really hope for the sake of the BMW employees that a buyer is found for the team and a 14th team is allowed to compete in F1 next year, ideally as a reborn Sauber.

    1. Snail says:

      Agreed. The fact Dave Richards isn’t on the grid – that is a hell of a loss. He was doing great things with BAR before he get chucked out after that “fuel collector” issue. I’d love to see F1 with Ross Brawn and Dave Richards competiting against each other.

      Mind you, if Renault go, you never know (mind you the news about BMW get purchased probably scuppers that).

  13. Adrian says:

    James,

    Regarding the proposed increase of the gridsize to 28 cars, I thought there were limits on the number of garages at some circuits (Monaco being the obvious one) that meant the grid could only reach a certain size.

    As far as you are aware would 28 be feasible at all the circuits?

    Cheers, and keep up the good work – this has fast become my first stop my informed opinion on the world of F1!!

  14. KNF says:

    Hi James,

    Does this mean that Litespeed and Proton (the owner of Lotus) has joined forces? Previously there were rumblings over Litespeed’s use of the Lotus name, if I recall…

    As a state-owned entity, this implies that the Malaysian government might be footing the bill. What happens to Petronas then? Will they jump ship from BMW Sauber and sponsor Lotus instead?

    I also question the necessity of relocating to Malaysia, as there is already a large technical base in Europe (mostly the UK, I guess).

    Even though there seems to be an effort in both Malaysia and neighbouring Singapore to kick off the motorsport industry, I can’t think of any wind tunnel facility in either country which could support the aerodynamic development (Malaysian racing fans, please correct me!).

    This second coming of Lotus could be in for a cliff-like learning curve indeed.

  15. Renn Sport says:

    Its awesome that lotus are returning to F1 even under the Malayasian flag. Seeing how Lotus belongs to them its only fitting.

    Great news to see this iconic racing team return.

    Now all I hope for is a Black and Gold car!

  16. Jakub says:

    I was rather not expecting to see another new team getting approval from FIA. James, with this decision in mind what are the chances for raising the maximum number of cars on the grid? For me it looks like a smart move from FIA to get another new team and rescue Sauber in the same time. The decision about BMW application is in hands of all Formula 1 teams and I assume that they will try to help Sauber to survive.

  17. Kirk says:

    James,

    Is there any indication that pushing for a 14th team could be just a way of covering their bases in case one of the new teams (Manor, USF1 or Campos) falls by the way side? Or in case Renault get kicked out of F1 next week?

    I’ve heard most circuits can only house 13 teams, so even if everybody agreed to 14 it wouldn’t be physically/logistically possible.

  18. Martin G says:

    I wonder who might drop out to free up that 14th place????

    Renault are finished IMO

  19. Peter says:

    It is clearly and purely Mosley`s decision. He wanted Lotus back, he did not want a facotry outside the UK especially not the old BMW.

  20. PaulL says:

    Does anyone know if this “Lotus” team have any real relation to the team Lotus that Ayrton Senna drove for?

    I gather Peter Warr’s not going to manage the team..

    1. Rich C says:

      No its not. See my prev post.

  21. Craig says:

    Hi James
    Do you think they are intending to fill Renaults slot with BMW sauber if all does not go well for Renault on the 21st?

  22. Craig says:

    It’s great to see a great name such as Lotus returning to the sport, but will this team be classed as a ‘new’ or will they continue with the stats recorded by the old Lotus team??

  23. Craigy J says:

    James wont this have further consequences for the BMW – Sauber Team? Surely they’ll find it much more difficult to find a new buyer now that they aren’t even guaranteed a place on the grid next year?

    It also throws another twist into the driver market showdown that is fantastically alluring at the moment. After all the speculation I really hope we get lots of diver moves to mix things up a bit.

  24. Ian says:

    It will be good to see the Lotus name back on the F1 grid again next year and also to have Mike Gascoyne returning is excellent news

    Will be interesting to see how good the new cosworth engines will be compared against the mercedes

  25. Scott says:

    This is bizarre… Announce a brand new team starting from scratch to replace an existing team on the grid which already have the personnel, facilities, cars, etc (granted, BMW are pulling out but I’d guess rescue talks are still ongoing for the team). On face value, who would now want to rescue BMW if they have no guaranteed slot on the grid? The FIA have seemingly destroyed a more than viable team with a past history of reasonable success, to approve a new FIA / Cosworth engined team.

    At the same time they give BMW an imaginary 14th slot on the grid in case of any vacancies. What vacancies could they be talking about I wonder… Renault? So are they suggesting that the case against Renault has already been decided? Thanks to the constant feed of FIA (sponsored?) leaks and immunities, you’d think it might well be as it seems to be a witch hunt again rather than a real trial – I mean imagine if this was a criminal case? They’d throw it out! Or have Renault indicated that they’ve had enough and are going to withdraw regardless of the result of the “trial”?

    I’m not usually a conspiracy theorist, but this is just all too obvious!!!

  26. lynnduffy says:

    Have you seen the story on GPUpdate that BMW has been sold James? Looks like another Arab group buying in. If the price of oil keeps going up we can run F1 forever… :)

    http://f1.gpupdate.net/en/news/2009/09/15/bmw-sauber-sold-to-swiss-company/

    1. I saw that too. Other than buying my football team (Notts County), not much is known about them.

      Apparently little is known about them other than they a re a Qatari funds group operating out of Switzerland…

      Here is a link to the Notts County story from the Guardian with a mention about QADBAK investment group:

      http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/david-conn-inside-sport-blog/2009/sep/02/notts-county-takeover

  27. Chris Cole says:

    I for one would prefer a 28 car grid to a grid comprising of 3 car teams. I hope the teams go with the FIA’s proposals

    1. Snail says:

      I’d prefer it to be 27 cars if its 3 cars per team. Otherwise you’re going to need shared ownership of that 28th car!

      3 * 9 == 27 not 28!

  28. Chris says:

    My James you are going to be busy today! In light of the BMW sale, the Renault hearing next week, Lotus coming back, that does mean 28 cars for next year. Does this pave the way for Renault to make a hasty exit after Monday’s hearing? It looks as though Flavio will be made the fall guy and some others suggest that he will be gone by then anyway. If there were 28 cars with a maximum grid of 26 does this mean a return to pre-qualify? Or would Saturday Q1 mean that the bottom 2 pack up for the weekend, the next 6 have a grid position, then Q2 has 20 cars, with 10 dropping out and a top 10 for Q3?

  29. rpaco says:

    “The FIA has given current team BMW Sauber “14th place” for 2010, meaning they are now first reserves to fill any vacancy on the grid should one arise.” (quote from BBC site)

    I wonder if they (New Lotus) will get use of the track at Hethel. Have a look a the vis on the BBC page showing the Spanish GP of 1986 the tyres look bigger/wider, but the rear wings look much the same size as now.

  30. Adrian says:

    James,

    Another question unrelated to this thread but wasn’t sure where else to post it. f1technical.net is running a story speculating that Flavio Briatore may be replaced by Alain Prost.

    Have you heard anything along these lines?

  31. Stu says:

    Glad to see the name of Lotus back in the sport. I hope they go with a nice retro paint job of green & gold… They seem to have built a good team behind them so hopefully they will do well.

    I do have to question though what they are going to do next season with 26 cars (maybe 28? if BMW Sauber get in on the act – who should in my opinion given they would probably be better than the 4 new teams) running around for 8 points places. I personally think there should be extra points down to, say, 12th place, and a point for pole, fastest lap, most laps led. Makes more of an incentive to the lower teams.

    Or will they bring back pre-qualifying like in the late 80s/early 90s. It is certainly harking back to those days with the amount of new teams on the scene!

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  33. Raj says:

    This should be a welcome news for few drivers whose future looks uncertain. It should also help few new drivers come up the ladder faster. With all these changes, F1 seems to be coming back to a full cycle. More privateers drawn in. I hope it gives us back those days of exciting races. Off topic, a question for James. Do you see any reason for Toyota to continue in F1? I mean apart from topping the chart of biggest budget in F1, they have hardly topped anything. As an engine supplier as well, they have not made much progress. Williams is also gonna move onto another engine supplier in all likeliness. So, what is there for Toyota in F1?

  34. Werewolf says:

    A commonsensical move by the FIA. Whether or not Lotus is really a better team than BMW Sauber is, perhaps, questionable, but the headlines are better. It will be nice to have the name back; and Mike Gascoigne is renowned for building neat and effective cars, often with limited resources, so there is hope.

    Awarding a reserve slot to BMW Sauber is a perfect insurance policy. With Renault and Toyota not certain and three new teams (four including Lotus) also questionable to one degree or another, it saves a further selection process. I would be surprised to see 28 cars for all the reasons mentioned by others but with six teams possible to fall, BMW Sauber is not in a bad position.

  35. Werewolf says:

    As evocative as Lotus-Cosworth sounds, I was wondering about badging the engine a Proton. Petronas Lotus Proton would be a real Malaysian coup in F1.

  36. Anthony says:

    Hi James, Can you tell me how the various GP tracks are going to find pit boxes for 14 teams next year, particularly Monaco.

    1. James Allen says:

      Very good question. It’s 13 at the moment, pending FOTA and the FIA agreeing to have another. But will all 14 make it? Max Mosley thinks three or four may not.

      1. Rory says:

        Hi James.

        Your a very busy man currently with all the news thats breaking on a daily basis.
        My question to you is how do you really rate the credibility of the new teams on next years grid. Do you think that the correct selection choices have been made or do you think other of the tendering teams were more suitable entrants? Also do you really believe that Cosworth will have a strong enough and realiable challenger for the current engine crop that’s out there. My last question to you is how do you feel about the direction that F1 is flowing towards ie the depletion of the Gobal Manufacturer’s and the re-emeregence of the small budget customer teams. Which is better for F1??? Thanks James keep reporting the inside track. Also I really believe that the Beeb has made a terrible mistake in not hiring someone with such an in-dept knowledge and passion for a sport which with all its faults is loved by millions around the world.

      2. Jon Wilde says:

        Hi James,

        Can you give more insight into where and when Max Mosley has stated he doesn’t believe all the teams will make the grid next year? By no means am I questioning the statement, I’m just interested to see when it was said.

        Also under the current engine regulations assuming all the teams do make the grid next year don’t we know have one too many teams running the Cosworth engine? (given Mercedes having to request permission from the FIA and FOTA to supply more than 3 teams) Does this mean Campos isn’t happening or USF1 have already made a deal with Toyota (or another engine supplier)

        Keep up the great work!!

      3. James Allen says:

        On BBC website in a video interview from last weekend.

  37. Paige Michael-Shetley says:

    This is just ridiculous. How in the world can they pass over an existing team on the grid with existing resources for a team that doesn’t have everything together?

    Really dumb move by the FIA.

  38. Rich C says:

    I wish people would get over it: It NOT Lotus! Just some guy that bought the name. They’re totally lame imposters.

  39. Paul Moss says:

    No-one’s mentioned much about the team principal here. Tony Fernandes (CEO Air Asia) is a remarkable guy and i suggest you go wiki him before writing off this team. If he’s the Malaysian Govt’s ‘guy’ in the operation, i can’t think of a better choice. He’s outspoken, and not afraid to ‘do things different’, to zig when the other guys zag (ref James’s earlier post)
    Most importantly, i believe he’s the right guy to help deflect the political maneuvering away from Mike Gascoyne and let him do the job as it needs to be done.

  40. Rudy Pyatt says:

    Very interesting. Mind you, I would be much, much more excited if we had BRM returning to the grid in its classic green and red… Rubery Owen can probably still do it, complete with their own engine. Yummy prospect. How about a write-in campaign?!

    I would actually like to see 15 teams and 30 cars per race. I know there are objections to the pit facilities, but come on. If NASCAR can grid and pit 43 cars (each with its own pit box and crew) at tracks like Richmond and Bristol, surely there’s room at the F1 tracks.

    Then again, I would also like to see other impossible things like the chicanes removed from Monza, a USGP at Laguna or Watkins Glen, and the return of the French GP to Reims, Monthlerey or Rouen…

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