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.