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Analysis: Power struggle behind the scenes at Lotus
Analysis: Power struggle behind the scenes at Lotus
Posted By: James Allen  |  27 Sep 2010   |  10:45 pm GMT  |  110 comments

The row over the use of the Lotus brand in F1 has been bubbling under the surface for a long time and today it went public. Proton, the owner of Group Lotus, which makes road cars said that the F1 team had no rights to use the name Lotus.

This followed an announcement at the weekend that Tony Fernandes’s Lotus F1 team had acquired the rights to the Team Lotus name from David Hunt, who has owned it since 1994. From next season Tony Fernandes’ outfit will be called Team Lotus. He has made this move in order to bring the original team name back, but also because the licence which he was granted by Group Lotus is not being renewed.

Today Proton came out and said that Fernandes’ company Tune Group has no right to use the Lotus name and tonight, the CEO of the F1 team, Riad Asmat, said that they would contest this in the High Court in London.

“As Tune Group has now bought Team Lotus Ventures it means we can now use the Team Lotus name for 2011 and beyond, ” he said. “We are all delighted we can go into 2011 with total confidence in what we own, and what we can take to the track.

“Given that this is contested by Group Lotus we think now is the time to clear this matter up so there can be no further arguments. We have therefore today issued proceedings in the English High Court for a declaration that Team Lotus Ventures has the rights to use the Team Lotus name and everything associated with that brand in relation to Formula 1.”

There are many other exciting developments in the Lotus F1 team’s pipeline, like a two year deal to use Renault engines and gearboxes, which will be announced shortly. They intend to retain both drivers and there are also some new arrivals in the technical department as the team seeks to challenge the midfield in 2011.

But the row over the rights to the brand must be cleared up first.

How Fernandes wants it: Lotus cars and F1 team history combined in a Singapore mall promotion

There are two different Lotus entities – Group Lotus, which makes road cars and is owned by the Malaysian government-backed Proton company and Team Lotus, which is owned by Fernandes, also Malaysian.

Fernandes would like the two sides to be unified and so putting it back to what it was – a car company whose brand is internationally promoted via F1 racing. This is the business model of Ferrari and its what Ron Dennis is busy building at McLaren.

Group Lotus is run by Danny Behar, formerly in charge of Red Bull and then head of brand at Ferrari. He has some ex-Ferrari F1 team associates in his management team at Lotus and it would seem that they has had the intention of building up to a possible F1 entry. But Fernandes got there first, his entry pushed through last September by Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone. There were two reasons why that happened; Mosley wanted a fourth customer for Cosworth to make the engine programme viable and Ecclestone liked the idea of the Lotus brand being back in F1 and has time for can-do entrepreneurs like Fernandes.

It seems that Behar is building up the racing side, entering GP2 in partnership with ART for next season. Confusingly Fernandes is also starting a GP2 team as a staircase to F1. Fernandes is investing in Malaysian grass roots motorsport to underline his commitment and send the right signals to the Malaysian government.

This situation is an unwelcome complication for Fernandes, but he seems to be pushing hard now to force the issue. He holds many strong cards, not least the fact that his team is already in F1, he has the Team Lotus assets, still has the support of Ecclestone and has plenty of money. His Air Asia business now carries 24 million passengers a year and has a market capitalisation of £1.2 billion.

“This year we operated under a licence from Group Lotus and next year we will operate under our own ownership,” said Fernandes. “We would like to co-operate but if Group Lotus doesn’t want to then there’s not much we can do about it. Maybe the ownership will come under one anyway in due time. It makes sense if they did. If I was sitting there and there was a Formula One team that’s going around the world with twenty races, promoting a brand, if I was the CEO, I would definitely want to get involved, especially if I’m not putting any money in it.”

This looks highly unlikely now. It’s a war between two experts at building a brand, who are locked in a political and now legal battle. The legal side will clear up some of the issues, but it looks like it may come down to high level intervention by the Malaysian government.

The key thing from Fernandes point of view is that he has an F1 team and if he’s forced to change the name he can.

I understand that Group Lotus, like ART owner Nicolas Todt has been evaluating Sauber and Toro Rosso.

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Well, I guess we have milked the topic somewhat. I want to understand your POV but just can’t get it. Lotus threatened to sue, and eventually did. Surely it is their decision alone, whether to enter any motorsport programme (including F1) and not someone else’s. It couldn’t have been clearer. MG was refused an original license (and/or endorsement) from Group Lotus and instead of looking at other options, continued to pull strings and use connections to pursue the Lotus option. I truly think that the Chapman family felt that these guys initially had Group Lotus’s best interests at heart, as perhaps did Proton. Something appeared wrong initially and something was compromised. Not a good start.

As a company owner, I always look to employ people based on integrity and values before intelligence, because the later can be learned and the first two you either have or you don’t. Sure, talent is essential in any field. But talent alone, without core values hardly ever equates to ‘long term’ success. Sorry, but we differ on the definition of ‘caliber’. Toyota ‘suspended’ MG services citing difference of opinions and Force India felt they could also do better without him. Hardly ‘perfect’ managerial credentials. Whether Football or F1, the fact is, the most successful teams were/are managed by people who not only have a long term commitment for their team, but see as paramount the interests of fans, owners and sponsors alike. This seems not the case with the current team Lotus outfit to me. Sven Goran Eriksson is manager of high caliber, but given the choice, would you choose him over Sir Alex Ferguson to manage England.

Whilst the issue of Colin Chapman’s legacy can be debated for ever, he’s not here and the car company is. And just like any company its survival depends on making good cars that fit the current modern market. I personally like the direction GL is going and feel its perfect timing. I’m tired of people not taking Lotus as a genuine contender to the likes of Ferrari and Porsche. For instance, I don’t understand the Cayenne Turbo or its appeal, and who knows what Ferdinand Porsche would have thought about it, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that the 911 is still a damn good sports car.

Not excluding oil and tyres, F1 is intrinsically linked to road car sales. People will buy ‘more’ Ferrari’s and Porsche’s, because of their prestige and continued success in motorsport. There are exceptions, however if you are the 4th most successful team in the history of F1, and you manufacture sports cars, you can’t ignore the synergy. Franchising your F1 division to people who, in my view lack the core values required to help sell your cars, is a PR and marketing disaster. The fact the TF says GL should be happy as someone else is paying for their F1 aspirations, clearly demonstrates he doesn’t get it.

Without car manufactures, there is no F1 and here we have an F1 team taking legal action over the very company that has all the history and allowed its very existence!!!! The fans deserve better.

You may as well defend TF and MG driving to races in a F430.

I think that’s me done on the topic.


Unfortunately I must confess I find your position somewhat difficult to understand as well, because it appears inconsistent. On the one hand, you criticise the current team for “not respecting Lotus’ history”; on the other, you claim that it doesn’t matter what Colin Chapman would think because “he’s not here and the company is”. Those two positions do not sit well in my view. I also find it difficult to determine what your claim that Lotus F1 does not reflect the car company’s values is based upon, particularly as Group Lotus has so far refrained from elaborating on what the “persistent breaches” of the licence actually were. For my part I cannot see where the issue arises outside of a pure power-grab.

Your inference that Proton and the Chapman family would wilfully put the Lotus name in jeopardy over the objections of Group Lotus is a claim I also confess I find difficult to understand. Lotus F1 has not brought the sport into disrepute – indeed, its conduct has brought it much commendation – and its drivers have actually assisted Group Lotus in developing the Evora GT4 car. Had Group Lotus felt the need to take legal action, they would have done so by this point, yet this has not happened. Indeed, it is the team which has initiated the present High Court proceedings. Again, this does not lend much credence to Group Lotus’ claims.

Mike Gascoyne has not always gelled with team management – as evidence by leaving Toyota and Force India – yet to deny his ability when he is held in high regard by the majority of the F1 paddock is somewhat odd. He helped Jordan to their most successful season (including a title challenge) in 1999, laid the foundations for Renault’s 2005 success and similarly helped Toyota to one of their most successful seasons. The fact that Force India’s chief designer Mark Smith was convinced to leave – despite Force India’s 2009 success – should give some indication of his commitment to achieve results with the Lotus name, and I can think of far worse custodians for the brand.

Finally, on the manufacturers point I would draw to your attention that only 3 of the teams on the grid have a genuine connection with a current car manufacturer beyond the engine, and in the case of the 3rd (Renault) they are 75% owned by an external party. F1 has survived the rise and fall of countless manufacturers, and to claim that its survival relies on their presence is not borne out by the facts.

Given the length of this debate, I suspect that we will have to agree to disagree.


Below is an excerpt from Group Lotus issues last year. You can still find on blogs. Once you realize that this was issued you can see why the wool appears to have been pulled over a lot of people’s eyes. Subsequent to this, it appears Mr TF launched a powerful PR campaign combined with the utilization of heavy weight contacts to go play in F1. It’s a brilliant case of milking all those enthusiasts passion for Lotus to go play in F1.

I’m pretty sure that Mahathir (ex Malaysia PM), the Chapman family and many other fans, all believed that Tony Fernandez and team had the full support (and best interest) of Group Lotus is some way, which, as you can see they did not initially.

I obviously know the history behind a Lotus Carlton. I’m merely pointing out that just because of Colin Chapman’s original 50’s 60’s philosophy of building lightweight cars, if he were still around today, I believe he would see the evolution of sportscars and be happy to endorse the development of larger horse power cars as well. I also doubt he would be too happy standing by watching an ex F3 team, ex Toyota F1 team and wealthy businessmen claim any sort of heritage to his company. This debacle is no fault of Group Lotus’s and as far as Proton go, perhaps just a case of a little naivety. Either way they have my full support.

This is a simple case of name grabbing in view, but we will all have to wait and see.

Here is the excerpt…

Group Lotus plc and its subsidiary Lotus Cars Limited, the manufacturer of the iconic Lotus Elise and global high technology engineering consultancy, are not connected or affiliated to, nor in any other way associated with the newly announced “Team Lotus” that has submitted an entry for the 2010 Formula 1 championship. Group Lotus plc will take all necessary steps to protect its name, reputation and brand image.

Lotus will continue to focus on the tremendous worldwide opportunities that exist for its core businesses. Lotus Cars has recently launched the stunning new Evora 2+2 global sportscar to great acclaim and deliveries to the first customers are imminent. The company is pulling all stops to ensure production meets demand. Lotus Engineering, one of the market leaders in automotive green transport solutions, is currently working with many of the world’s vehicle manufacturers on state of the art projects with plans of growth in its international targeted markets such as Malaysia, China, USA and India.


The Chapman family et al would have been perfectly aware of the nature and extent of the backing provided to the new team, both from Group Lotus and from other backers such as the Malaysian government. To infer otherwise is portraying them as unfairly naive and something I believe is not borne out by the facts. There is also a difference between stating that you will “take all necessary steps” to protect your name/brand and issuing an explicit threat of lawsuit against another group using your name, as any lawyer will tell you. The fact that a licence agreement was reached, and Lotus shareholders became fairly senior figures in the team, suggests the position did soften somewhat, and for my part I do not view the rescinding of the licence (and renewed attempt to revoke the Team Lotus name) and Dany Behar’s appointment as CEO as coincidences.

Given the direction that Lotus took under Chapman’s stewardship and the resistance he put up to making the cars excessively powerful or heavy (even the Esprit was still very lightweight compared with its rivals), I still believe he would be quite dismayed at the lack of innovation in the new cars unveiled. The cars simply do not have anything particularly unique about them compared with their rivals, and in a market such as the supercar field that is critical. Compared with that I do not believe Chapman would be so concerned at someone attempting to carry on his team’s legacy, particular someone of the calibre of Gascoyne, and there is a clear determination for success. In that regard I wish them nothing but success, and feel that distractions such as this legal dispute assist no one and harm the Lotus name as a whole.


Tony Fernandez and his team entered F1 with the only connection to racing being from Litespeed F3 team and laid off workers from Toyoto F1. No connection to Group Lotus at all.

Mid last year Group Lotus issued a statement threatening to sue anyone using their name. I guess Proton asked them to ease off and let the association go through, perhaps thinking of buying out eventually, who knows, but I’m sure it was regretted?

Lotus cars still carry the initials of their founder and have the dna. Any Brit should be ashamed at watching TF play with the 4th most successful F1 team in history with no respect to the car company at all, otherwise he would have named it Air Asia, as per hi Williams sponsorship, or new GP2 team just launched, or MotoGP team! How proud will Lotus fans be when he plays (as he said he would do) the Malaysian national anthem if they got a podium. He knew about the Group Lotus issues well before. So in my view its about either ego or financial gain and he’s duping a lot of people. Remember TVR!

Proton should be applauded for supporting and nurturing Lotus until such time they feel financially ready to enter motorsport programmes. They deserve better respect.

The Fiat/Ferrari/F1 model is a terrific setup which Proton could do a lot worse than to emulate, so I think it’s excellent to bring in people from Ferrari.

Lotus can and should be like Ferrari and only Lotus Cars and Proton deserve the right to build this. I for one would love to see new breed of Lotus Supercars going up against Ferrari whilst watching them battle in F1.

Enzo Ferrari is no longer around, yet the passion of Ferrari and the Italian people for their marquee is stronger than ever. Lotus can achieve that too but not with the current set of values.

TF can buy a brand but he can’t buy the history and the passion that went into building it.


The thing is, Tony Fernandes isn’t interested in “buying a brand” or building competitor cars for Lotus – if he was, buying and running an F1 team is a pretty counter-intuitive way of doing it considering the financial drain. There is nothing in the approach taken to date to prevent involvement from Group Lotus in the existing team, and in light of their new direction (which is not exactly in keeping with Colin Chapman’s philosophy of lightweight innovation but there you are) an F1 connection could work quite well. All of this suggests this is more about power play than grievances about the use of a British name by a Malaysian businessman – especially with Proton being Malaysian and likely to register the team as Malaysian as well.


I may be missing the point here but, as far back as mid last year GLplc were public in not supporting this current outfits plan to enter F1 under the Lotus name. They basically threatened to sue and issued a public statement as such. Being that Lotus Cars are a relatively small company, you would think they would want to have far more involvement in any set up anyway. Then it all went quite, and I guess much politics, string pulling etc was involved and some form of comprise was made.

I understand the HUGE investment to start any F1 team, but I just can’t see why TF, MG continued to push this through knowing the friction it would cause GL and at a time they could (and should have) used another name. I do not believe TF has any passion or care for Lotus’s history. Air Asia and the group have their logos on everything so why not have a F1 team.

I am a Lotus fan, and I think the car company has all the basic ingredients to grow its brand and become major sports car player and not just a company that makes lightweight sports cars (despite their ability). I’m lucky enough to own a Lotus Carlton which whilst not being a full Lotus, it still fully deserves to wear a Lotus badge. It also shows the brilliance of Lotus engineering and still makes my hands sweat every time I drive it!

I’m sure there are many people out there that can’t wait to see the new era of Esprit super cars! To achieve car sales, motorsports will surely play a significant part of marketing strategy. Therefore, how could you then seek involvement of an F1 team that clearly displays a complete lack of interest in the synergy between to the two divisions?

At the end of the day, I am happy that Proton own Lotus (I’m also a brit married to a Malaysia living in KL) so it’s great for me. I also can’t see Proton trying to make Lotus Cars or an F1 racing team Malaysian, the same way I can’t imagine Tata making Range Rover Indian. But that’s not really the main point here.

Accepting the challenges of F1, I don’t want to see Lotus being the best of the rest in 17th place. I want to see them win races! To do that naturally you need talent. But more importantly in my view, the only way that sort of long term success can be realized, is to have a team that share a common goal, a goal of unequivocal passion for the brand and the history of Lotus in every form.

This current F1 team, at least the management of it doesn’t appear to come anywhere close.


The fact that Group Lotus and Proton consented to the use of the name – and did so via a legally binding licence agreement – would suggest that an amicable resolution of any dispute over the use of the name was reached, otherwise the name would never have reached the grid. I can’t recall Group Lotus making such a statement of opposition last year and suspect you may be thinking of Brabham, who was very clear on his intention to take legal action if a team used his name. Given the involvement of two Lotus shareholders in the team (S. M. Nasarudin and Kamarudin Meranun) and the initial presence of Proton’s logo on the T127, I would say Proton and Lotus were initially quite supportive, and I see no evidence of friction in such appointments. What has changed since then is open to conjecture, but I suspect it has something to do with the change in management and aspirations for the firm.

On the heritage subject, the team has had and continues to have the blessing of the Chapman family, and given their protectiveness of Colin’s legacy I doubt they would give such blessing were Tony Fernandes driving a coach and horses through its history. If anything he has demonstrated a keen awareness of such history and a desire to emulate its achievements. The fact they have agreed to sell the Team Lotus name to him (which the IPO has declared is theirs to own since 2003) reinforces that impression for me.

The new cars announced may well cause interest and bring Group Lotus success, but my point was that by moving away from the “lightweight sportscar” model which defined what Lotus is those cars are not true Lotuses anymore. The Lotus Carlton was more a product of GM ownership than a true reflection of Lotus values, which does not detract from its use of the name so much as put it into context as a showcase for Lotus’ engineering abilities. Similarly, the new cars demonstrate engineering ability but not the true spirit of Colin Chapman’s designs. In any event, the resistance to synergy between Group Lotus and Lotus Racing thus far appears to have come from the former rather than the latter, and I fear the former runs more risk of damaging the Lotus brand than the latter. That to me seems the greatest obstacle to unity, and I am by no means a dye-in-the-wool Fernandes supporter.

The point about the team being made Malaysian was more to demonstrate that it’s as plausible for Group Lotus to do it as Fernandes, especially with Proton’s involvement in the existing team. I too wish to see Lotus succeed in F1, but that takes more than one season and with respect Group Lotus would probably have fared no better this year. Lotus Racing will grow and improve, particularly with Mike Gascoyne’s guidance, and when they do eventually succeed I for one hope Chapman’s old cap is put to use once again (as they have said they intend to do).


LOTUS name is not same to others, it’s the legend in motorsport. Full of history and one of the great names in motorsport.


So Proton are pulling their sponsorship off Lotus because Lotus want call themselves Team Lotus?

Lotus have done a good job this year considering the time they had to prepare. I like the team because they seem passionate about racing and want to make a good go of it. All this court room drama stuff bores me.


If Group Lotus own the rights to the “Team Lotus” name, why would they not use that in F1 – given its historic connections – as opposed to the rather meaningless “Lotus Racing”? It does seem to undermine their claim a bit, to say nothing of the IPO rejecting their application earlier this year to revoke the trademark (and presumably re-register it as their own). This sounds, as many others have said, exactly like sour grapes and I can’t imagine the High Court judge being particularly impressed by this squabble.


I remember when Ron Dennis took over McLaren, there were noises from New Zealand that it will never be a pure McLaren team, it will be British owned, but i think Tony thinks like Ron Dennis, Ron said he is a chapter at McLaren and there are others like Williams and Sauber. Fernandes, could brand the team by one of his other businesses which are doing great, like Sir Richard who went with Virgin.

I hope a solution is found in this and Lotus has a great backing and from what I hear they are moving forward, they are pationate, guys like Heikki put a great faith on the team.


They shouldn’t have used the Lotus name in the first place.

Why don’t they buy TVR off that Russian bloke, it hasn’t got the heritage of Lotus but it would funny seeing Trevor in the constructors table.

Just A Bloke (Martin)

To keep the tie in realistic would they need to move to Blackpool !!

Seriously that’s actually not a bad idea. What other names are languishing;

Jowett, BRM, Vanwall 🙂


JA, You might want to rephrase “..it would seem that they has had the intention of building…”

Do you have any information on the Lotus Exos T125, like who actually designed it, where it was going to be built etc?

If I recall correctly, it came out pretty much just before all this escalated.


What’s in a name ?

Mr.Fernandes should wash his hands of the Lotus name/brand, as I’m sure his team would hold more credibility under a new name.

If Group Lotus ever did come back to Formula 1 we could all talk about the “old” team and not how they left in the mid 1990s


The current F1 Team led by Mike Gascoyne seems to me to have the ethos and small company feel that was the Team Lotus trademark in Colin Chapman’s day.

Nicholas Todt and Co simply don’t.

Just A Bloke (Martin)

I really like what Tony and Mike have achieved this year and I really hope they can keep going and stay in Norfolk. I know there is a historical separation between Team Lotus and Group Lotus that has been acknowledged in law, but I would hate to see another tawdry argument when only the lawyers win. I think Tony and Mike should rebrand themselves and build their own identity. Team Norfolk and Chance anybody 🙂


‘My’ first team that I followed was Lotus so seeing the green and yellow is very pleasant but I don’t kid myself those days are back or that there is any connection between what Fernandes has done, although I wish him all the best, and those days.

It’s window dressing – hardly unique in the sport I have to say. And although there is the suggestion that McLaren’s history goes back to the Dark Ages, MP4 signalled the start of a new team in every sensible definition of the expression.

I can call myself Kermit but it won’t make me green.

Fernandes surpised and impressed me at the Fan’s Forum and I left with, and retain, a respect for him and the wish for him and his team to remain in the sport and do well.

But the name Lotus is like a dog with no control over its rear legs and bladder. The only reason it hasn’t been put out of its misery is because of sentimentality. You know it would be for the best for all concerned but you just can’t bring yourself to admit it.


I am setting up my own new F1 tream, The Group Team Lotus Group Team


I’m still checking into AutoUnion for mine!


Seems quite bitter of Proton/Group Lotus. If Proton want to go racing, why not be ‘Proton F1’ or “Team Proton” surley a malasyian backed company would please its owners more by using its countries name rather then a sports car comapnies name already in use (and doing fine at that!!)?

I have no issue with Fernandes using the Team Lotus name. They dont pretend to be Chapmans outfit, but seem committed to keeping the reputation of the name they bear intact. If he wins the battle, Il not be displeased. Why Group Lotus doesnt just join with Team Lotus is beyond me, but im guessing its a corprate ego thing. Theres always the Brabham name, or BRM to perhaps use instrad …. Im kidding ofcourse.


I strongly believe that this ‘Team Lotus’ has nothing in common with the original Team Lotus that Colin Chapman started and they should not poach the name just to bring in money.

Mr.Chapman was a true classic racer and team owner. The Team Lotus name should not be soiled by allowing some multi-millionare to buy it’s rights. There is no heritage of racing in Mr.Fernandes’s team. Be original and use your own team name.

I have one picture of Mr.Chapman that I took when I attended the Canadain GP in 1976, I was 12. I loved the black & Gold JPS Lotus..nothing will replace them.


Tony Fernandez has the full backing of the chapman family.

I am sure they would rather associate the chapman name with a British based team that wants to go racing (albeit owned by a Malaysian).

How a proton backed entry would have any more link or heritage is beyond me.

Doesn’t it sound familiar. Someone used to being in Ferrari (who usually get their own way) trying to get in on the f1 rights, and just expecting the other party to roll over and give up the name they bought the rights to use. It’s bound to be successful 🙂

If he loses the naming rights, if I were Tony I would rename the team after something that eats lotus.

Also perhaps they might want to take on IBM also for lotus notes.


Thats a pointless point of view in this instance because what you are saying is that nobody should use the name because its not the company Colin started. Neither of them are so in your view nobody can use it!

My view is that Team Lotus was always a separately owned company devoted entirely to F1 and so is the Tony Fernandez outfit. He is trying to maintain links with classic Lotus heritage so why not let him? You can bet your bottom dollar Proton wouldn’t unless there was a dollar in it for them


Either they unite or divide. The rest are just politics and personal egos.

Group Lotus has already gain free publicity from the brand “Lotus”. The general public won’t be digging into who’s Group Lotus or Team Lotus.

Unity is strength.


Its all a bit academic isn’t it? Come what may we all know that the Team Lotus/Lotus Racing/Lotus F1 or whatever they want to call themselves have nothing to do with the Historical Team Lotus formed by Colin Chapman.

Why dont they revive other great names in the sport like Tyrell?

I have heard of stories of the Tyrell Cosworth from my dad which I would probably tell my kids!

Btw does the current Mercedes team have more Tyrell DNA in it than the current Lotus team have the Lotus DNA??


Funny how things are split up. I’m sure that they used to have the old trophies in reception at Hethel. But that was up to 8 years ago when I dropped out of the industry.


If I were the Malaysian government, I would sack Dany Bahar and give Group Lotus to Tony Fernandes. He’s the guy that makes things work.


Hi James, long time reader, first time poster! (great site BTW, it’s one of the first site’s I check when I wake up!)

I’m going to disagree with those of you who say that Fernandes’ venture has got nothing to the real Team Lotus, and would rather see Group Lotus in F1 instead.

Firstly, if the classic F1 team and perhaps more importantly, the heritage of that team had been of any importance to Group Lotus, then they would have secured the rights to the name long before now. They didn’t and like most car manufacturers are incredibly short sighted when it comes to formula one. It took other enterprising individuals, who *did* value that heritage to do it first in the best guise they could manage at the time (the initial license from GL was obviously just the first step in a long game plan).

Secondly, when you buy the assets of a defunct company, you are entitled to do as you see fit with those assets and that includes taking advantage of the heritage of those assets. In this case, the Team Lotus name is the asset, and Fernandes wants to make the most of the asset, which is just plain common sense.

Anyway, this pattern has been seen time and time again. The small enterprising guy does all of the hard work and the big, slow, lumbering corporate entity steps in at the last moment and bullies them out of the marketplace. How often have car manufacturers entered formula one declaring they’ll conquer all and then left a few years later with their tails between their legs? I don’t think we need another BMW / Toyota / Honda story…

Clearly there is some kind of power struggle going on in Malaysia, and hopefully things can be reconciled. I’ve got nothing against Group Lotus, but I’m fairly certain that the soon to be Team Lotus outfit has ten times the amount of formula one & racing DNA than any outfit that Group Lotus could put together (and that’s just from Gascoyne!). Oh, and Team Lotus are a British / Malaysian affair at present, and they’re clearly trying to reconnect with their roots. A tie up between Group Lotus and Toro Rosso or Sauber would be further from those roots than the current Gascoyne/Fernandes outfit.

Anyway, by next year both Toro Rosso and Sauber will be eating Team Lotus’ dust, so it would be kind of a pointless exercise! 😉

BTW, I’m primarily a McLaren supporter, but Lotus Racing / Team Lotus have my support too mainly because they seem to have a bit of heart.

On a small tangent, I currently drive a Nissan 350Z, but would love an Evora! 😉


Welcome kaz, and very well written first post !

I’d be surprised if group lotus win for the reasons you outline above.


It’d be hilarious to see Lotus F1 versus Team Lotus in F1 2011. Hilarious and confusing.


Group Lotus agreed contractually that they had no rights to use that name ‘Team Lotus’ in 1985.

Lotus Cars and team Lotus became wholly separate companies back in the 1950s.


I think a lot of people are missing the historical fact that Team Lotus was always a separate company from Group Lotus ( Lotus Cars or whatever it went under ) when Colin Chapman had them and Team Lotus was always family owned.

I see no problem with Fernandez using the Team Lotus moniker as he seems to be operating with the ‘correct’ Lotus spirit as an entirely separate unit from a road car group, exactly as it was.

Sour grapes from Proton if you ask me as they have only just realized how advantageous their own F1 team would be as a business model like McLaren etc, but they’ve missed the boat this time!


Interesting that Proton decided to go to the press first rather than to the courts, while Fernandes did the opposite. Seems to show who has the legal cards here.

Interestingly back in 2002 Group Lotus tried to strip David Hunt of the Team Lotus trademark and the courts allowed him to keep it for F1 use noting the difficulty of entry.

Here’s some interesting timing:

Fernandes gets the license to use the Lotus name just as Bahar arrives with his business plan at Group Lotus. Note that Lotus are under big pressure to get out of debt by Proton so obviously Proton will back Bahar all the way.

Then, it all seems to come to a boil around the British GP dates.

7th July ART announces it is withdrawing from the 2011 F1 tender as it can’t get funding.

Over the British GP weekend (11th July) Fernandes and Hunt start to flesh out a deal for the Team Lotus name.

15th July: Group Lotus file for the Team Lotus trademark with the IPO.

Then, after a while, Group Lotus suddenly tie up with ART.

ART obviously couldn’t get the backing, so their motivation for the Group Lotus tie up is obvious. Group Lotus want an F1 slot for themselves to fulfill Bahar’s mission, and ART are a good ticket to try and get in with after 2012. Proton obviously would back this plan in order to try and get Lotus profitable on the back of Bahar’s strategy.

Fernandes meanwhile realises that his venture is losing Proton’s support and so uses his links with Clive Chapman and David Hunt to secure its future.

It looks like Proton wanted Group Lotus to work with Fernandes back in mid-2009, but Bahar wants it all in-house and has been trying to kick Fernandes into touch since the start of the season.

Now Fernandes has the Team Lotus trademark, Lotus’ plans are looking in bad shape.

Obviously, the Group Lotus strategy is political. Proton wants Bahar and his Ferrari chums to succeed and finally make Lotus profitable. Without a leg to stand on legally, they’re painting him as the bad guy and they can mess up the Lotus racing brand through the ART tie up. Even without the Team Lotus trademark in F1, by painting ART GP2 green and getting ART into F1 in green and gold colours with the CABC badge, it all looks silly. And that’s fine if you’re Group Lotus and you haven’t the legal power.

Fernandes has the legal side covered it would seem, and probably has his share of Malaysian government contacts too.

So it’s a case of who blinks first. Telling that Fernandes tweeted: “But this is great because all the facts will come out and the shareholders and goverment will see the real story.” Looks like he’s confident of winning a political battle too.


I think this is exactly what is going on. There are two main things that bother me about the behaviour of Proton/Group Lotus:

A. They treat Fernandes, Hunt and the Chapman Family with contempt: They unceremoniously terminate the old agreements with the team, they go behind Hunt’s back to get the trademark to the Team Lotus name (AFTER making him an offer and thus recognizing his rights). They also bluntly state Hunt’s rights are not real and seem to forget that Team Lotus was for all intents and purposes a separate entity from the automotive group since the mid eighties. All this is very disrespectful to Fernandes and to the people who were actually involved with team Lotus who back Fernandes. In so doing, Protos and Bahar are themselves disrespect the history and legacy of Lotus and Collin Chapman (while hypocritically accusing Fernandes of same).

B. They aren’t actually planning to race in F1 themselves. You mention ART, James mentioned Sauber and Torro Rosso. First of all, that is the corporate approach, not the Chapman approach. And IF they are going to run an “external” team, why not go for the team that is already there? That has a connection with the Lotus-past themselves and is practically aching for Group Lotus to take a share in their company. Sure Fernandes is an opportunist and sure it could have all gone horribly wrong this season and that would have damaged the Lotus brand. But it didn’t and now it’s Group Lotus who are doing the damage (while yet again hypocritically accusing Fernandes of same).


Its great to have the Lotus name back in F1 but at the end of the day it is only a name and doesn’t have much to do with the car brand/manufacture who lets face it doesn’t make much these days. Why try to build a brand that doesn’t really benefit you!

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