Lotus’ long-awaited investment deal with Middle East/American consortium Quantum is nearing completion, according to the man leading the consortium. But scepticism remains in the F1 paddock about whether the deal will get done. It has been in limbo since it was announced in June.
Mansoor Ijaz told reporters in Abu Dhabi on Sunday night that a contract is now in place for the group to buy a 35% stake in the team. They are now awaiting approval from the outfit’s owner Genii Capital. “There is no question the deal is definitely happening. It has now been completed from our side,” Ijaz said.
The prospect of a deal between the two parties was first talked about before the British Grand Prix, but there have been a number of delays which has led to the team’s financial problems. Insiders talk of issues due to banking compliance laws, as some of the payments derive from sources which the US banking regulators monitor closely.
Kimi Raikkonen, who is leaving the team for Ferrari next season, said on Friday he had not been paid “a single euro” by Lotus this season. He considered not racing in the final two grands prix of the season and also threatened the team with an injunction over their failure to pay.
However, it looks like the 2007 world champion, who retired on the first lap of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, will compete in the United States Grand Prix in Austin after talks with his manager to put in place a payment schedule,
Ijaz added: “I am confident that [Raikkonen] will run the last two races, fulfil his professional obligations to us and us to him. I met with Kimi’s manager Steve Robertson last night. I’ve apologised to Steve, we’ve apologised to Kimi. We intend to not only make sure that they are made whole, and then some.
“We are intending to also compensate our employees and management team to make sure that everybody on that team knows that the new shareholders coming in took responsibility for their actions.
“Our deal is to buy 35% in newly-issued shares. We are essentially diluting Genii Capital. The options do allow us in a fixed amount of time to take control of the team later on.
“We’re going to clear off the debt, and then we’re going to bring very high quality sponsors which you’ll see very soon. Those sponsors will give us the longevity and capacity to compete at the top end of the business for a long time.”
Ijaz added that the plan is to sign Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg to replace Raikkonen at the team next season.
“I wish the transition had been smoother between Kimi and the next driver who we believe will be Nico Hulkenberg, but sometimes in life things don’t happen as cleanly or as nicely as you’d like them to,” said Ijaz.
“I can tell you the contract [for Hulkenberg] was prepared and ready to go. I know Nico is excited about doing this and I think it is a matter of a very short period before that is all finalised.”
When asked about the deal, Lotus team principal Eric Boullier said: “I will not comment on this yet. I can’t say anything yet. I think by Tuesday. I hope so. I cannot say anything about what has been agreed because this is confidential between both parties but it is all settled.”
Sources continue to suggest, however, that Pastor Maldonado is closer to the deal than Hulkenberg. This only adds to the mystery around the Quantum deal.
It will be interesting to see whether it goes ahead in the time frame or not.