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Lotus, Renault and Virgin F1 teams change names
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Darren Heath
Posted By: James Allen  |  03 Nov 2011   |  8:19 pm GMT  |  67 comments

“And so it came to pass that in Milton Keynes in the shire of Buckingham, Stewart GP begat Jaguar, which begat Red Bull, which smote everyone into submission.

While Tyrrell begat BAR, which begat Honda which begat Brawn which begat Mercedes which chased furiously after the Red Bulls.”

Name changes in Formula 1 are as old as the hills; it’s a business and takeovers are an essential part of business life.

They aren’t always allowed, as Tom Walkinshaw found when he tried to turn Arrows into TWR, but generally where it’s in most people’s interests to see strong brands with staying power in F1 the powerbrokers don’t stand in the way.

Today in Geneva the F1 commission met and sources confirm that the three teams seeking to change names have been allowed to do so, without any loss of earned income under the Concorde Agreement rules.

Virgin’s ill starred two year adventure has come to an end. The brand has gradually reduced its presence as Marrussia’s presence has increased and the now the small volume Russian car company is the brand which billionaire scientist Andrei Cheglikov has decided to use for the team which he now controls. It’s a smart move to get it done now, while Team Lotus was looking for approvals to make its changes.

Meanwhile the Lotus vs Lotus battle has ended with Tony Fernandes also rebranding his team around a sports car brand. Caterham F1 Team, probably with Air Asia tacked on the front as title sponsor next year, will be the platform for an ambitious strategy of marketing low cost sports cars to Asia and linking in with Fernandes’ other sporting asset; Queens Park Rangers football club.

The Lotus Renault GP team meanwhile also has the right to change its chassis name away from Renault to Lotus, should it choose to do so. Group Lotus is a sponsor at present, but the agreement with Genii has clauses under which it could become an equity partner.

Renault sold its interest in the team to Gerard Lopez’ Genii concern at the end of 2009 and since then has moved to focus solely on engine supply.

The new five year deal signed with Red Bull makes it clear that RBR is Renault’s “works” team from now on, which makes them effectively a manufacturer backed team as far as engines go at least.

The net cost to Renault of taking this route and supplying other customer teams, is less than a third of what it was when it ran its own team. Like other manufacturers who pulled out in 2008/9, Renault found that owning an F1 team means you have to win or lose funding when economic times get tight.

Ironically now they are engine suppliers to Red Bull Racing they are winning everything, as they did when they were engine suppliers to Williams and Benetton in the mid 1990s.

Times change, names come and go, but some things remain the same..

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67 Comments
  1. Andrew says:

    All I have to say is that Richard Bransons dabbling with Virgin involvement in F1 seemed half-hearted at best. Can it really have been worth it in marketing value to do it that way? Perhaps there were some marketing stunts performed somewhere but I never read or saw anything about it. Seems like a total waste in my opinion.

    1. Marsh says:

      I fully agree.

      It was also very amusing to hear that they’ve finally realised they can’t rely solely on CFD to build the car.

      1. Richard says:

        Yes one day it may be possible to fully design a competitive car in the virtual world that takes into account everything that happens in reality, but I guess that is some way in the future and would take enormous computing power. – but it will happen one day!

      2. Kunal Shah says:

        Richard,
        I agree that while Wirth and Virgin failed in their attempt and hence they parted ways as discussed here: http://bit.ly/llKFtx

        However, considering the costs involved in aero and wind tunnel testing, soon F1 car design will move into the virtual arena.

      3. KGBVD says:

        You should mind to say “competitive F1 car”, as Nick Wirth has already had quite a bit of success with the Acura in ALMS.

      4. Richard says:

        Yes F1 competitive car, but assumption was that everyone would realise that this being an F1 site, and the given subject matter. Aero in F1 is very advanced and highly tuned and really should not be compared to any other series.

      5. Ross says:

        I defense of Wirth and CFD they have shown it is possibly to put a team on the grid within the 107% rule on a budget.

      6. Richard says:

        The reason that they failed is that CFD is not nearly comprehensive enough to take account of all the variables involved. It would take enormous computing power to properly design an F1 car in the virtual world. While wind tunnel testing is expensive, but they are viewed as essential equipment if one is to produce a competitive car currently.

        for this is competitiveness

    2. wayne says:

      Branson’s involvement was a synical move to use F1 and put nothing back. At least teams like Renault, Williams Mercedes, McLaren, Redbull and Ferrari all contribute to the spectacle and supply chain, and therefore the profitability and viability of F1.

      HRT is another team who adds precisely nothing to proceedings. At least you can see real drive and determination fromt he Lotus boys to move forward and ‘take part’.

      1. wayne says:

        Apologies for off topic James (or anyone else in the know), but, when the race season calendar gets expanded do drivers renegociate their contracts as they have to effectively do more ‘work’? What about the team personnel such as the mechanics? Do the teams get paid per race and therefore have the money to cover increased costs? How does it all work? Surely it isn’t just FOM/CVC that benefits financially?

        An idea for an article? Or perhaps you have written one in the past that you could point me to?

      2. James Allen says:

        Very good question. When I was at ITV we had a contract for the F1 season and it grew from 16/17 races to 19 during that time. There was no alteration to the terms.

      3. Ben G says:

        Will never forget Branson claiming to have ‘saved’ Brawn GP in 2009…

      4. Ross says:

        Harsh on HRT I feel. They have given a chance to fan favorites Senna and Chandhok a chance and giving a real star of the future Riccardio a chance to display his skills. Not to mention giving an Indian driver a chance to race at his home Grand Prix which was massive interms of securing home interest for a new race

        Not every team on the grid can win a race but they can help groom potential stars of the future.

    3. Alex W says:

      Branson did win a very very cheap world championship in 2009! After that was a joke…

      1. Tealeaf says:

        No Brawn and Jenson won the title in 2009 not Branson and it certaintly was not cheap, if you want to talk about cheap titles look no further than 2008, it’s been proven this year when Jenson have BEATEN Hamilton in the SAME car.

      2. Anil says:

        In case you haven’t been watching the races this year, Lewis has had an AWFUL year and isn’t even 2 race wins behinds Jenson. And remember, lewis beat him last year.

      3. Alex W says:

        Finacially cheap for Virgin to be name sponsor in 2009, not saying 2009 “cheap title”!

      4. Shane says:

        Yes your right…Lewis did beat Jenson last year. Do take into account though that the car in question was designed around Lewis, so much so that quite substantial modifications needed doing to jensons car just to fit him in it. And even then, not so comfortably.

      5. Coefficient says:

        I think the real situation at Mclaren is that JB and LH are separated only in qualifying. In the races they are closely matched, more so than many would like to admit and it could go either way depending who gets lucky with reliability and running into incidents.

    4. DMyers says:

      To be fair, Branson provided the name to the Manor Motorsport team which had already gained an entry. So this further change of identity for the team may or may not have happened anyway.

  2. knoxploration says:

    Best introduction to an F1 article, ever. If I close my eyes, I can hear it voiced over highlights clips, leading into the start of an F1 broadcast. :-)

    1. wayne says:

      Yes very BBC isn’t it? Perhaps you could get Sean Bean to do the voice over James :)

  3. Ben P says:

    James, are these changes effective immediately or will they come into effect at the end of the season?

    1. James Allen says:

      From 2012 is my understanding

  4. Tim Parry says:

    James:
    Great lead off on your post! This would make a great contest – name the longest, most convoluted sponsorship trail in F1. I have a feeling the Tyrell to Mercedes journey might come close but there has to be some other candidates.

    1. I would guess Ferrari. Massive changes there ;)

  5. young slinger says:

    Well, glad the Lotus confusion is at an end, but ‘low cost sports car’?? Chapman’s iconic Seven, the car that made him but he couldn’t kill off, was quite cheap to buy and run (I had one!), saved by Caterham Cars – and subsequently improved upon – is definately NOT low cost.

    1. James Allen says:

      It is compared with a Ferrari or McLaren road car!!

      1. K says:

        lol +1 on James.

    2. DMyers says:

      I still don’t understand how people could be confused by the Lotus situation. Other than the confusing motives of Group Lotus, the situation was simple to understand.

    3. Paul H says:

      These things are relative – make a list of cars that can do 0-100-0 in under 15 seconds or so and I think you’ll find it is remarkably low cost in comparison.

  6. Tony says:

    And Lotus evolved from Toleman which started in f2 with a Ralt derived car which of course split off from Brabham. And where did Black Jack learn to build cars … Cooper. And Cooper started building cars out of Fiat 500 bits!
    I would love to see a Rock Family Tree of F1 it would be a large volume.

    1. DonSimón says:

      Thats an amazing idea. Kudos on the knowledge too man. Good insight!

  7. Bhaskar says:

    Times change, names come and go, but some things remain the same….. Bernie Ecclestone? :D

  8. Alex T says:

    “Ironically now they are engine suppliers to Red Bull Racing they are winning everything, as they did when they were engine suppliers to Williams and Benetton in the mid 1990s.”

    and in 2012 supplying engines also to Williams and the Lotus nee Benetton…..

  9. Nick says:

    Naming a team after anything other than a global brand seems like wasted potential. Especially now as F1 grows again.

  10. Adam Taylor says:

    Im glad to see the back of this Lotus vs Lotus battle. I was confused and im an avid fan, id hate to think what the non avid fan thought.

    Its a shame to see the demise of Virgin as a brand in F1, I always thought it deserved a place in the sport given its global awareness, but that could be said for a lot of brands.

  11. Ross says:

    Now that Virgin is officially a Russian team I wonder with the excess amount of drivers the Renault/Lotus now have if we will see Petrov heading over to Marrussia next year?

    1. James Allen says:

      Don’t know, but Charles Pic has a good chance, he’s a Gravity driver like D’Ambrosio, who was placed at Virgin this year.

      1. Tom says:

        I take it then that Robert Wickens is not in line for a seat at Marussia? I guess Canadians will have to wait a bit longer to see a Canadian back on the F1 grid.

      2. James Allen says:

        I’ve heard his name too.

    2. Coefficient says:

      Corrupt Russian Oligarks should not be tolerated in a democratic culture. They’re all puppets of Putin who is the next Lenin/Stalin/Hitler and should be shunned from F1.

  12. MehluliNdebele says:

    I am glad the Lotus Vs Lotus naming row will finally be resolved, personally i think the LRGP was benefiting a Lotus from the Tony Fernandes Lotus team. Even though they are relatively new i think they have much more media presence and are more marketable. Of all the new teams they are well organised and you can see they mean business. Im sure in the near future they will be strongly challenging the mid field

  13. C Lin says:

    Renault will supplying engine to Williams next year, any news that they could supply engine to any other teams?

    James, any truth in Williams announcing their drivers line up in Abu Dhabi?

  14. L33t_Of_Lag says:

    Nice article. I would love to see a full list of name changes from the start of f1 and who has simply dropped out. Thanks

  15. Richard says:

    Not quite sure what Team Lotus’s drivers Heikki and Jarno will make of driving for Caterham. – Not quite the same cashe as Lotus!
    I hope they can improve to the middle ground, but I have my doubts.

  16. Phil Bishop says:

    Plus ça change

  17. Jonathan says:

    So do you think Fernandes will now sell the “Team Lotus” rights to Group Lotus, bring it all back together, and so prevent all this mayhem potentially happening again in the future?

    1. James Allen says:

      Yes, I believe that is part of the deal.

      1. Ben G says:

        Makes you wonder why he bothered…

      2. Torn says:

        Answer: $$$. Without Team Lotus tag he probably would not attract attention, and in F1 publicity is money. On the other hand, according to Joe Saward, he was allowed to buy in state owned Malaysian airlines to “motivate” him into settling thins with Group Lotus (aka state-owned Proton). And now both parties have what they wanted. Only fans who believed in Tony’s spirit and true involvement in reviving the Lotus name in F1 are the losers.

  18. Rob Newman says:

    For a moment I thought I was reading a religious book. Great start to the article.

    I agree with the others. Richard Branson could have done a better job and they could have been competing with the Torro Rossos and Force Indias.

    James, do you know if the Red Bulls are paying for their engines? Or is it part of the deal in promoting the Renault or Infiniti brand? I heard the Renault boss didn’t want Red Bull to change their name to Red Bull Infiniti.

  19. Paul H says:

    Glad Virgin is no longer the team name – it has always seemed a half baked effort at best and certainly not had the investment you would expect of the name.

    Happy to see the Lotus row sorted out, not the way I would have liked but glad to see an end to it. At what point do we start referring to them by their new names? End of the season, start of pre-season testing? I’m assuming the team colours will remain as they are now – unless TF gives another competition to design the livery. Fully expect Genii to have a major stake in Lotus Cars within a year now that they have sole marketing opportunities.

    To be honest, I wouldn’t be surprised to see team names changing more often in the future as teams use it as simple marketing in a more american style. The only names I see as always being there are McLaren and Ferrari, although I accept they both started as racing teams before moving into road car production so they too could be classed as marketing names. Along with Williams they are the only teams that have real pedigree remaining and unfortunately I can see Williams being renamed in the not too distant future due to finances. I hope that the F1 Commission brings in some rules preventing resurrecting historic names.

  20. Marc says:

    I believe it is right for the teams to be able to change identity if they must, without having to lose earned money from the previous season. Many teams have come and gone without leaving much of an impact on F1. A few are missed, for they are part of the sport’s history: Cooper, Alfa Romeo, Matra, etc, to name a few. I hope Williams will turn their form around before it is forced to exit a sport they have given so much to. Marc

  21. Kieran says:

    James, I really, really enjoyed the opening of this article, what a wonderful sense of humour you have.

    It’s great to have a sense of levity about this stuff, and it certainly cheered me up.

  22. Tony says:

    Thinking about this the reason that there are two Lotus teams is because Team Lotus was deliberately set up as a separate entity to Group Lotus as a financial measure. Brabham cars were built by MRD and run by Sir Jack. So entry and naming confusion in F 1 is nothing new.
    John Surtees won his world championship in a Ferrari but it wasn’t red .. It was blue and white and entered by NART the American Ferrari importer. Enzo had fallen out with the Italian authorities.

  23. Loetkoe says:

    Why was TWR not allowed to change to Arrows?

    1. Rich Tysoe says:

      I think it was a combination of Arrows only very recently having changed back from being called “Footwork” when Tom Walkinshaw wanted to make the change and Walkinshaw rubbing too many important people up the wrong way in his F1 Career up to that point (Flavio in particular).

      1. Loetkoe says:

        Thanks for your clarification. Also thanks for ignoring my error.

  24. Come to think of it, the departed car manufacturers were probably more honest/pure in their approach to racing: BMW, Honda and Toyota all had their value. The new teams are the epitome of the corporate world; Group Lotus is a bit undefined I think, they will need to build a better brand awareness. Putting good old Jean Alesi thru unnecessary risk with Indy 500 or making the entire Mansell clan race GT cars is not quite the marketing strategy you’d expect. Having said that, Fernandes with his passion bla-bla-bla-talk-I-have-passion-coming-out-of-my-nose attitude is not hugely inspiring either. I can dig Marussia and maybe even the HRT, provided they put new exciting drivers, like Ricciardo, in their cars.

    Someone has to revive Arrows, I was a big fan and they always had some funky colour scheme.

    1. Coefficient says:

      Yes, I miss Arrows. I loved the A20 with the aft of the driver in black and the fore in orange. Looked great!

      1. Tyler says:

        I agree…I always like the team, and the black and orange years were some very good looking cars

  25. Dave says:

    James,

    Any thoughts or rumours on what the colour schemes on the Lotus and Caterham cars will be next year?

    1. James Allen says:

      Last I heard they were sticking with black and gold on one side and green and yellow on the other, but I’ll check

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