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Lotus, Renault and some changes afoot
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Lotus, Renault and some changes afoot
Posted By: James Allen  |  05 Nov 2010   |  1:38 pm GMT  |  55 comments

Lotus finally confirmed the news that we’ve expected for ages, that they will use Renault engines for the next two seasons. We already knew that they would be using Red Bull gearboxes and hydraulics. It marks a significant step forward for the team.

It was also announced that Red Bull has renewed its deal with Renault for two more years. The team will run KERS next year, Christian Horner has confirmed.

Renault: Changes afoot (Darren Heath)


Less clear is what happens next with the name of the team and with the arrival of Group Lotus, the car company, into F1 in partnership with the current Renault team.

Currently Tony Fernandes’ team, Lotus Racing, is operating under a licence from Group Lotus, but that licence is being withdrawn for next year because Group Lotus want to go F1 racing themselves.

There is a great deal of activity behind the scenes with Group Lotus looking at getting involved with the Renault team, possibly being called Lotus Renault next season.

“Next year that will be a very different looking team,” I was told this morning in the paddock by a rival team principal.

There are many theories about how this has come about but I’m told by French colleagues that the man to be looking at is Tarek Obaid, a long time business partner of Renault F1 owner Gerard Lopez and the CEO of PetroSaudi International, a private Oil and Gas company, based in Saudi Arabia. I met him on the grid at Silverstone, and as with Lopez was struck by his youth.

Obaid became a partner of the Renault F1 team in May this year. He apparently has extensive connections in Malaysia, where Proton is based, the owner of Group Lotus. Last year Petro Saudi set up a US$2.5 billion joint-venture company with the Malaysian government to invest in renewable energy projects in Malaysia, a deal announced by the Malaysian prime minister. Recently Obaid has made further moves into Malaysia and certainly has very active connections with the government.

So it would make sense if that was where things started, however Genii say that as of this week, Obaid is no longer a partner of the team, so the picture isn’t clear.

French colleagues tell me that Proton and Renault have been discussing collaborations at a corporate level as well, so clearly there are a few strands coming together here. Also remember that Lopez is very active in automotive technology, particularly internet in cars. He tried to buy Saab over the winter, together with Bernie Ecclestone.

Lopez also has a strong affinity for the Lotus brand, stretching back to his childhood, apparently where he was a fan of the JPS Lotus cars.

As to where all this leaves Fernandes, he has a sound team with a strong engine and back end for next year which will move the cars forward by at least 0.5 secs to 1 secs a lap. They don’t yet have their own wind tunnel, but there are some good assets. Reliability is the main gain. Although the Cosworth has been strong this season and reliable, the same cannot be said for the Xtrac gearbox and hydraulics.

Fernandes has bought the rights to call the outfit Team Lotus next year, but there isn’t room for two teams called Lotus in F1 and the brand confusion isn’t helpful. There is a much bigger political game at play in Malaysia and it may be that Fernandes has used this situation as a bargaining tool for something else in other areas of his business.

He does have a genuine passion for Lotus and his relations with the Chapman family are sincere, but he may decide not to fight this one. Instead he might decide to call his team Air Asia F1 or something else. Fernandes is a builder of brands and although he’s invested quite a bit in building Lotus Racing over the last 12 months, F1 as a platform for business is a long term programme for him and starting again next year with a new brand isn’t the end of the world.

It’s interesting that in today’s press release neither Fernandes nor technical director Mike Gascoyne use the word “Lotus”, when eulogising about what the Renault engine deal means for the future, they speak only of “the team”.

Renault go further; in their statement they say, “The new arrival to the Renault fold will be 1Malaysia Racing Team (UK) Ltd, operating during the 2010 season as Lotus Racing and the season’s most successful start-up entrant.”

The only issue with Air Asia as the name is what message it would send out if the car were involved in a very serious and high profile accident. F1 images, both positive and negative are around the world in seconds and there may be some sensitivity there.

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  1. British Gigolo says:

    I dont think that the name Air Asia would be an issue if for what ever reason it was involved in a big / high profile accident. There was previously European Minardi & there is currently Virgin racing. Admittedly Virgin is numerous brands but the one most people know outside of the UK is the Airline. Doesnt seem to have been an issue to date. Also they have been on the wing of the Williams for quite sometime & also what about Kingfisher on the Force India isnt that an airline?

    1. Just A Bloke (Martin) says:

      Kingfisher is a beer I think :)

      1. Nilesh says:

        Beer and airlines are both under Mallaya’s Kingfisher brand. Don’t drink and fly. :)

  2. Jo Torrent says:

    James the appointment of Eric Bouiller is Gerard Lopez decision or Renault decision ? If it’s Renault’s decision, will he keep his position next year ?

    Obviously, Kubica new already the situation by isn’t he stressed by Renault lesser involvement in the team and its long term effects on team performance. How does he feel about the leaving of some key people in the team ?

    Another question, if Tony Fernandez will let the Lotus name for the former Renault team did he use that as a lever to obtain a better and less expensive deal with Renault engine ?

    Another question, how long will Renault France supply its engine to Renault UK. If the team changes name, are they going to have to pay for Renault power ?

    Another question, Renault logo will be seen on RedBull cars from now on. Will RedBull be the main Renault partner from next year on. Will they have the engines for free ?

    Final question, is Renault considering leaving the sport after 2012 because I don’t see the french side being very hot for F1. Their chaiman Carlos Ghosn was never fan of mainting the program and he has a reputation for being a cost cutter. They’re remaining as part of the deal with the FIA (light punishment for commitment) and because of the frozen engines.

    1. James Allen says:

      Boullier is Lopez’ man.

  3. Jo Torrent says:

    On FP1
    ******

    RedBull are already way ahead of McLaren in FP1 and as things tend to stretch even further on saturday the only hope for Hamilton is for the rain to fall.

    Ferrari are always slow on FP1. Add to that Alonso’s nursing of the agonizing engine. He’ll use another agonizing unit for FP2. So no conclusion can be drawn on their performance. I’ll be very surprised though if they can sit near the RedBulls.

    1. James Allen says:

      Don’t read too much into Fridays. The gaps will be tiny in qualifying

    2. Galapago555 says:

      Ferrari twitted before FP1 started that they had already decided to change Alonso’s engine after that session.

      [InsideFerrari] “In order to manage the mileage in the best way we will change his engine unit between the two sessions so don’t get worried if you will see”

      Btw, they have not shown their real pace during Fridays this year.

      1. Irish con says:

        Yes 3 and a half tenths off for Ferrari is pretty good I’m sure considering that we know they only turn the engine up in q3 as past few races. Also they tend to run heavier on Fridays. Looks like redbull and Ferrari could be close on Sunday

  4. Paul Bellingan says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong but I recall Fernandes’ FIA entry as being 1Malaysia Racing Team last year. It could be the name of the actual company, trading as Lotus Racing, or Team Lotus.

    1. Just A Bloke (Martin) says:

      Brabham, Hesketh, Tyrell, Vanwall etc. admittedly these have UK connotations, so perhaps team Norfolk could invent a new brand after all. As I commented in a different thread maybe the Renault engines could even be badged as Gordini if they chose to realign their performance range of model.

  5. Jo Torrent says:

    Horner and Dominicali mind games
    ********************************

    I’m relishing the cold war of declarations before the races and I’m happy that Horner and Dominicali are upping their game in this respect.

    After Horner questionning of Ferrari team orders and Dominicali reply that it’s a ‘miracle’ that Ferrari is still in the hunt giving RedBull superiority here comes the last declaration from Horner “If I had had an engine like his then we would have walked away with it – it is one of those things.”

    Horner is very handy in this respect and I hope that the drivers will follow their team managers examples. I’m fed up with their polished prefabricated declarations.

    By the way, Renault will be very happy with Horner’s evaluation of their engine.

  6. jonrob says:

    Certainly looks like big Tony has been outmanoeuvred here. Still he is now the owner of the Team Lotus Brand having bought it from David Hunt.
    So maybe Tony will end up selling the brand to Gerard Lopez and we will have Malaysia Fernandez, an equivalent of the Saudia Williams partnership that was so successful a good few years back.

  7. Richard Bell says:

    Can someone explain to me what ‘branding’ means? For example what do they get from calling Takuma Sato’s Indycar Lotus, when clearly it isn’t?

  8. Olivier says:

    I hope Lotus Racing rebrands the team to Colin Chapman Racing. With the support of the Chapman family.

    1. Chris says:

      The Chapman family has an agreement with Group Lotus to use the Classic Lotus name. And what connection does TF have to CC , besides a alot of money? Exactly, nothing.

    2. ken says:

      Clive Chapman, I hate to tell you gets the rights from Team Lotus to use the name Classic Team Lotus. The rodents at Group can call it classic Lotus deep fried chicken balls or whatever they like but Team Lotus weather D Hunt ot T Fernandes have the team lotus name rights and the registration of the trademark for open wheel racing, specifically for F1. Bahar’s attempt to turn Lotus into Ferrari overnight is bound to hit a very big wall. The money that is rumoured to being used to purchase into Renault F1 is 4 times the profits group has made over the last 4 years. Your support of the Chapmab family is unfounded, they had the right to buy in 1994 and did not plus they supported David Hunts purchase,so I think their alignment with group(which is a total flip-flop) is purely based on greed !

  9. CHRISK5 says:

    So,in theory we could have Air MalaysianF1-Renault team on the grid and LotusRenault which will be a combination of Group Lotus and the current Renault works team.
    We wait months for clarity only to have more developments in the pipeline !

  10. Ben G says:

    Fascinating – thanks.

    James – do you have any idea what Fernandes paid David Hunt for the ‘Team Lotus’ name?

    If Group Lotus were so anxious about going into F1 and protecting their brand, perhaps they shold have bought out Hunt a while ago – then none of this would have happened.

    1. Andy C says:

      Exactly. I wonder what Colin chapman would think of a French Malaysian lotus heritage. At least the current guys got the chapmans onboard.

      It is nothing new for f1. Competing factions. Why not have two lotus teams next season.

      I wish lotus (the current team) the best for next year.

  11. Seems to me that Tony Fernandes and Mike Gascoyne have produced the outfit most in tune with the history and ethos of Team Lotus being a small team, based in Norfolk and punching well above their weight.

    They even managed to produce a car and colour scheme that respects the earliest period of the original Team Lotus yet looks bang up to date.

    I’m sure I’m not the only die hard F1 fan who would be sad to see naked commercialism cause the name to appear on another car.

  12. Racing Sanders says:

    All his talk af company branding is giving me a headache. I do find it all rather false and misleading. So team lotus, group lotus and a Malaysian entrepreneur have exactly what to do to with Colin Chapman and Co? Its a bit like Dave Cameron saying “Winston Is Back!”

  13. Ross says:

    Off topic I know but happy birthday James!

  14. Heffalump says:

    I wonder where all this leaves Petrov (except for in the tyre barriers as usual). It is somewhat hard to see if and how this melee changes his situation.

  15. CHRISK5 says:

    The supposed ‘uncertainty’ over Renault’s involvement after 2012 is simply a smokescreen and bargaining chip to get more kudos from the next Concorde Agreement (which should run upto 2017 or 2020) like the engine freeze being relaxed and greater commercial revenues for the teams etc.
    Renault will stick around in some form or another,trust me.
    The Group Lotus and Renault deal is likely to involve elaborate roadcar projects too.
    Intriguing times.

  16. Andy C says:

    James,

    Lots of rumours linking senna with lotus and a petrobras link.

    I just wonder whether Williams would look to enlist petrobras as a sponsor again.

    Despite all of the rubbishing of Bruno recently, I think he is genuinely talented and would be a better partner for Rubens or nico than Maldonado in my view.

    The lotus and Renault link might explain why I’ve heard they may be interested in hulk.

    If you were a betting man, how would you predict the lotus, Williams, Renault Lineups next year.

  17. Andy C says:

    James,

    Sorry for the multiple posts, but are you planning a driver of the season poll and rookie of the year?

    I think kubica has been the driver of the season for me, and kamui as rookie.

  18. Jo Torrent says:

    Jenson Button showed his form today. He was way off the pace and he won’t be anywhere near the front. McLaren won’t need any team orders to give which is at least one problem they’re relieved from.

    Lewis is on his own. He and Alonso will battle for the best of the rest spot. Massa will battle with Rosberg Kubica and maybe Schumacher.

    Let’s hope that it’s rainy to prevent us from the RedBull massacre and have some outsiders mixing it up.

  19. David Ryan says:

    Am I correct in thinking the current Concorde Agreement requires the unanimous agreement of all existing teams for a name change to go ahead? I certainly recall something along those lines being mentioned when Peter Sauber took over from BMW again, hence why the team retained the BMW Sauber name for the first few races. If that’s so I think the proposed rebranding may run into something of a brick wall…

  20. Damo says:

    What a mess!

    As a Lotus fan, I am getting really fed up with the way Group Lotus is conducting itself – can Danny Behar not see that by taking the action that he is, he is actually having a detrimental effect on the Lotus brand?!

    Lotus should have bought a stake in Fernandes’s Lotus Racing, called it Team Lotus, and helped to improve the performance – all at relatively low cost…

    1. DK says:

      You say it right. I guess ego sometimes doesn’t make sense.

    2. Werner says:

      Thanks to Behar Lotus will be producing decent Lotus cars ! I believe he is absolutely doing the right thing. Lotus is a brand that shouldn’t be at the end of the grid and be the best of the rest. The only thing they have done wrong is giving Fernandes the opportunity to use the name Lotus !!!

  21. Kedar says:

    HUH!! This Lotus story just keeps getting weirder by the day, Lotus racing will use Renault Engine and gearboxes, and so will team Lotus. If these two teams chose to cooperate with each other wouldn’t that be like the discarded Idea of the B teams? If not is there going to be a case of will real lotus team please put your hands up on every GP?
    For people new to F1 I guess all this gets very confusing.

  22. Neil says:

    A Lotus is like a bus….

    You wait years for one to come along …. and then 2 turn up ;-)

    Sorry. Couldn’t resist. I’ll get my coat…

    Neil.

    1. TURU says:

      So true ;D

      I hope it’s gonna happen (Proton/Group Lotus buying into RenaultF1), because it would mean a big cash injection for thirsty Enstone artists. ;].

      James, do You really think it is going to happen?

      Regards, Peter.

  23. Brian says:

    The only problems with the AirAsia F1 name would be if and when Fernandes decides to offload the team – the name would surely have to change – and it also precludes the landing of a title/naimg sponsor due to the clash that would be inherent to the adoption of such a name.

    Perhaps a better route would simply to take the idea they used in reviving Lotus and adopt an established name from a defunct but respected team: Tyrrell, Brabham, BRM perhaps. Instant heritage and a recognised name rather than one which is effectively the name of a sponsor.

    If they go for Tyrrell they could get Jackie Stewart as their brand ambassador – instant kudos as well…

    1. Ajay says:

      I doubt they will. Wasn’t Ross Brawn thinking of renaming his team as Tyrrell last season. And that team had a far better claim to the Tyrrell name (It was Tyrrell till ’99 when it became BAR).

      Tony Fernandes has no claim on any of those other historic names. Plus, he’s spent a lot of time and money on linking his team to the Lotus heritage. I don’t think he’ll let go of the Lotus name so easily.

    2. Jim says:

      How about Tony trying to get a licence to race under the Toleman name and then asking the Benetton group for some green coloured sponsorship!

      Trying to get your head round the history books in the years to come would be interesting

  24. CHRISK5 says:

    Another caveat is which of the ’2 teams’ gets the commercial rights to the Classic Team Lotus back catalogue (ie) the Gold Leaf,JPS and Camel replica merchandise.
    Whichever of them does can claim to be the authentic team of Lotus heritage and would be worth a small fortune in royalties alone.
    It’s most likely that Fernandes will rebrand to 1Malaysia or something similar,though it would be hilarious if he persisted and tried to enter under TeamLotus-Renault and if he suceeded the other half would then call itself
    GroupLotus-Renault!
    Plenty of twists and turns to come.

    1. dddxxx says:

      won’t happen – ever.
      If really renault cooperating in talks with Proton on corporate level, they will force Fernandes to abandodn his barnd politics, I think they already DID it with that latest announcement. Renault won’t allow such a guy will annoy their business partners. End of story.

  25. Serrated Edge says:

    The Lotus name remained dormant for years yet now we have two groups fighting tooth and nail for the right to use the name…….what a mess!

  26. Mark J says:

    I really do not see the logic in all this. Its a lot of wasted money, a good portion of politics and mostly a clash of egos. It can really only explain why you would want to invest in another team when there is a perfectly good one with the name Lotus already in F1 with a great deal of potential to grow next year. I realise Renault F1 is a top line team but with a solid foundation from Lotus Racing this year. It could of saved a lot of pain and a lot of confusion for the fans of Lotus like myself and pretty much achieved the same results in 2011!

  27. CHRISK5 says:

    It basically comes down to whether we have MalaysiaF1-Renault and Lotus-Renault or the alternative of TeamLotus-Renault and GroupLotus-Renault.
    It has to get sorted soon so car livery designs,team clothing and sponsorship deals can be fully in place for 2011.
    Colin Chapman would be doing somersaults at all this – in a good or bad way,I’m not sure!

  28. RickeeBoy says:

    James,

    Lots of talk in Practice about driver changes in lots of teams for next year ( MW unhappy etc etc etc etc even though he has a contract. ) – As you are closer to things …. Are there any rumbling about possible blow ups and moves or do you think it wont happen till after Abu Dhabi

    1. Serrated Edge says:

      I dont see Webber at Red Bull next season even though he does have a contract for 2011.

  29. Prisoner Monkeys says:

    “that licence is being withdrawn for next year because Group Lotus want to go F1 racing themselves.”

    Then why did they give the licence in the first place?

    And are Group Lotus the only ones vying for Renault? I know Nikolai Fomenko and the Russians want in with Marussia, and the South Koreans are exploring the possibility of joining … with teams at a premium, this may be their only shot.

    1. Fergal says:

      A change of management, I believe in Group Lotus/Proton, that happened shortly after the license was signed (I believe it was granted just before the ex-Ferrari guys got on-board)

  30. Prisoner Monkeys says:

    So what’s got me curious with this whole Lotus situation is this: what happens if the existing Lotus Racing team is declared to have the legal rights to the Lotus name? Group Lotus can’t exactly buy into Renault, because the entire point of buying into Renault is to use the Lotus name. And if Renault want to scale back their involvement, who is there to buy into them?

    A few candidates do spring to mind. With the announcement of the Russian Grand Prix to be held in Sochi, it is believed that the Russians want to run their own Formula 1 team (rather than have some Canadian guy run under a Russian licence). Nikolai Fomenko, the owner of Marussia – one of Virgin’s sponsors and Russia’s only supercar manufacturer – is reportedly looking to get into the sport before 2014. They seem to want a Russian driver in the sport, and even if Renault drop Petrov, newly-crowned World Series champion Mikhail Aleshin is apparently on the market as well, but if he is going to race, his sponsor – Lukoil – needs to pay up because Aleshin does not have enough on his own. If Marussia raced, Aleshin could well find himself in the team.

    Then there’s the South Koreans. Hyundai was reportedly putting together a bid to enter this year and had been toying with it since 2006, but then the global recession struck and they lost interest. There’s no indication as to how serious they were to begin with, and while the rest of Korea have said they want to see how the Korean Grand Prix plays out before committing to a team, this may be their one and only opportunity to get their foot in the door in the near future. Like the Russians, the South Koreans want one of their own in a racing seat, but unlike the Russians, there aren’t any Koreans in any level of competition at the moment, so it may be years before they finally come good.

    Then there’s the Jacques Villeneuves and Epsilon Euskadis of the world. Villeneuve has practically given up on Formula 1, whilst Epsilon have been very quiet and some rumours suggest that they didn’t even have the budget to enter in 2011 to begin with; their entry was allegedly a publicity thing. Zoran Stefanovic is the rank outsider among the rank outsiders, so distant from the sport that he might as well be in another solar system. The last we heard from him, he was complaining about how the FIA took too long to decide on the stillborn thirteenth team. I don’t think Renault would sell to him unless they absolutely had to; in fact, I think they’d rather stay in the sport or shut the team down completely before they sold to Stefan GP.

    I don’t think there’s too many others who would or could be interested. Volkswagen have shot down the prospect of entering Formula 1, ART Grand Prix never managed to put a budget together, and whilst Prodrive might be the fan favourite, they’re off running the new MINI Countryman WRC and have admitted that they cannot wage a Formula 1 campaign alongside the WRC. Others are even less likely; Carlin might be expanding into GP2 this year, but it is believed their WSR team will become the new Red Bull Junior squadron, and they haven’t expressed any interest in Formula 1 since their 2008 entry bid was rejected.

    For the sake of preserving twelve teams in the sport, I think it is best that Group Lotus win the rights to the Lotus name and buy into Renault. Most of the other potential bidders are fairly remote, and there’s nothing to connect them to buying into the Enstone team except for my extrapolation of their desire to enter versus Renault’s desire to leave. A Lotus Renault team led by Danny Bahar might be pretenders to the title of Team Lotus even moreso than Tony Fernandes, but I genuinely think that Fernandes and his team have forged such an identity for themselves that they’d be welcome racing under their own name.

  31. Martin says:

    Would did Group Lotus lease out the name of ‘Lotus Racing’ if they were intending on coming into Formula 1 themselves?

  32. Kedar says:

    I saw an advert of Lotus Racing on CNN saying “Name is everything” or something like that
    It doesnt make any sense to me on the backdrop of this story!

  33. Barnato says:

    To bad that 2 companies fighting over a name. Nothing good can come from that. If there is a deal with Renault and the car manufacture lotus I hope they see that there ruining the name and heritage. The cars that they showed in Paris are way to heavy to be a true lotus. It would be awesome to see the lotus as a whole team and not just like rename the Renault team in lotus Renault. Just lotus racing and a small Renault logo on the back, then green and yellow just like now with fernandes team only then back in front with kubica fighting it out with ferrari and mclaren

  34. Luca says:

    James, it is shure that if Lotus Cars (or Proton) will buy team Renault, will be able to use lotus brandin f1?…there is the possibility that fernandes (with Team Lotus brand) would oblige proton to renounce to Lotus f1 brand, winning te legal battle?

    1. jonrob says:

      It’s Lotus Cars effectively or Group Lotus, at Hethel, they are “joining” with “Team Renault” (or the 10% of Renault left in the team) (They are now no more Renault than Lotus are Lotus)

      I’m now afrid that Tony has to find a new engine supplier but Quick! His supply is about to be cut off.

      The “Lotus” rights are in the UK high court atm, it is also being fought out with political and commercial heavy hammers in Malaysia. Where it looks like Tony will loose. However, I strongly recommend everyone reads David Hunt’s side of things and then see how you feel about it.
      http://www.theracedriver.com/2010/11/david-hunt-exclusive-on-team-lotus/

      1. Luca says:

        ok, thanks. in my opinion it’s not correct oblige fernandes to change name and power of his team. lotus cars and team lotus are two different identity…for me is a bad news.

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