The FIA has just issued the entry list for next year’s world championship. Ten of the 24 seats have yet to be filled and the main story is that Tony Fernandes’ team, which was known as Lotus Racing this year is officially registered as Team Lotus, the historic name that Fernandes purchased, or is in the process of purchasing, from David Hunt.
Team Lotus won 79 Grands Prix and seven constructors’ championships in its original guise, between 1958 and 1994.
There has been quite a bit of action behind the scenes on this story in the last few months, as Group Lotus, run by Danny Bahar, was trying to stop Fernandes using the Lotus brand in F1 and withdrew the licence from Group Lotus, which Fernandes negotiated for this season.
Bahar has been trying to bring Group Lotus into F1 and was negotiating with Renault about a link up with its F1 team.
The dispute between the two Lotus entities is still ongoing and there is due to be an appearance at the High Court in London at some point next year to resolve the matter, but what appears to have happened in the last few weeks is that the proposed deal between Group Lotus and Renault F1 team, whereby Lotus would become title sponsor and potentially shareholder, has been delayed as Fernandes’ claims to the Team Lotus rights seems to be prevailing.
Today’s announcement from the FIA rather underlines that. It is worth pointing out that this is not a finalised list, some names may change, but any change of chassis name will require F1 commission permission.
I’m told unofficially on the one hand that Bahar and Fernandes have been told by the Malaysian government to try to work together rather than continue to create a confusion over Lotus branding. This is something which Team Lotus would be prepared to do, but Group Lotus and its owners Proton have other ideas. If this is forced on both sides, it will be an uncomfortable arrangement at best and there is bound to be plenty more horse trading before the season starts.
However there are also suggestions that the tie up between Group Lotus and Renault F1 is still going ahead as planned. That deal was due to go through on the Wednesday after Abu Dhabi and there are suggestions that there will be some movement on this soon.
Today’s announcement is a significant stepping stone in this story, but not the final chapter.
Renault F1 Team is still currently registered under its original name with no Lotus tie-up.
Other items of interest are that Williams is still down as AT&T Williams, the title sponsorship still in place for the moment and there is no sign yet of Pastor Maldonado as team mate to Rubens Barrichello.
Force India appears to have both seats to be confirmed, which is interesting as Tonio Liuzzi has a contract for next year, in theory. The team is known to be negotiating with Nico Hulkenberg, who was released by Williams despite his pole position in Brazil.
Also interesting is that Toro Rosso names neither of the drivers it confirmed earlier in the year – Jaime Alguersuari and Sebastien Buemi. There is no word on the second driver at Renault, while HRT and Virgin both have two seats available.
Peter Sauber’s team reverts to the name Sauber F1, dropping the BMW after an extra season following the BMW withdrawal. He has both Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez confirmed for next season.