The new Lotus F1 team has revealed the scale of its ambition by announcing that Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen, both race winners in F1, will drive for the team in its debut season next year.
“The appointment of Jarno, Heikki and Fairuz as our race drivers is a testament to the quality of our team, to our ambition and drive, and above all to our long-term vision of success in Formula 1,” said Fernandes.
“Jarno and Heiki are winners and have proven track records in Formula 1, and will be a big asset to us as we look to develop the team and the car throughout 2010. Jarno and Heikki are two extremely versatile drivers who have proven themselves more than capable of achieving solid results no matter how tough the conditions.”
For Trulli this was a fairly easy decision to make, he has great faith in Gascoyne and the security of a multi-year contract. The team is bound to struggle in 2010 for reliability as they bed in an all new car, hydraulics and engine, but they believe they will be the strongest of the new teams.
Many of the staff already at Lotus’ base in Norfolk are from Toyota and a load more Toyota staff are set to arrive in the New Year, cherry picked by Gascoyne. For Trulli there will be a lot of familiar faces in the garage next season.
The key now is the sponsorship budget from Malaysian oil company Petronas. This has been with Sauber for many years, but with Malaysian government backing for the Lotus F1 project and a Malaysian test driver, there is political pressure for Lotus, the national flag carrier, to get the money. If that happens Lotus, which already has a guaranteed £55 million budget for 2010, will be in robust shape financially as well as technically. It would also set back the Sauber team considerably.
Lotus also revealed its new logo. It plays on the heritage of the past
“F1 aficionados will immediately recognise the classic green and yellow colour of Lotus,” said Fernandes,” But we have given it a modern twist which is essentially what this team is about. We are not pretending to be the Lotus of the past, but we are honoured to be able to bring the name back into Formula 1 at the start of a new decade of racing. We will draw on its heritage and use it to inspire and motivate our team, Lotus F1 Racing.”
Fernandes hopes to unite the Lotus F1 team with the Lotus car company, owned by Malaysian car giant Proton. He says that he hopes they will buy an equity stake in the team in time.