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Fernandes gives up JPS livery but is determined to remain Team Lotus
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Fernandes gives up JPS livery but is determined to remain Team Lotus
Posted By: James Allen  |  12 Dec 2010   |  5:33 pm GMT  |  102 comments

In the intricate chess match which is the battle to be “Lotus” in Formula 1, this weekend it was the turn of Tony Fernandes to make some moves.

The Malaysian businessman, who owns the team which competed this year as Lotus Racing and which is entered for next year as Team Lotus, phoned around a few journalists for a chat, including myself.

Team Lotus is on track for 2011, says Fernandes (Darren Heath)


This follows a week in which most of the running had been made by the opposition in the form of Danny Bahar, CEO of Group Lotus. As in his struggles to build his airline business, Fernandes finds himself pitted once again against the Malaysian government, which owns the Proton company, which in turn owns Group Lotus. This week they announced that they are getting involved in the Renault F1 team. “We are Lotus and we are back” said Bahar triumphantly.

Fernandes has a different view on that.

I took the call from Fernandes on Saturday afternoon and we talked about his decision to stick with the green and yellow colour scheme and his refusal to back down in the dispute over the Lotus name. He had originally tweeted the news that he was giving in over the dispute on the black and gold livery. “We’re not childish and emotional and saying, ‘Oh no, we’ve got to be black and gold.’ We’re pragmatic,” he said. He also found that many fans felt that the green and yellow was more suitable, not least because the John Player Special cigarette brand still exists.

What Fernades is categorically not going to back down on is the use of the Team Lotus and suggestions from the Malaysian government that the two sides work together have fallen on deaf ears. So it boils down to is this; Fernandes has a court case – which he called for – coming up in April or May 2011 in London at which a judge will decide whether he has the right to race in F1 as Team Lotus, having bought that name from David Hunt.

If he wins and the judge decides that Team Lotus and Group Lotus are two separate entities then he will not have to back down and rebrand his team. So we would have four cars on the grid with Lotus in the name.

Where Fernandes believes he holds a strong hand is that his chassis is called Lotus, whereas with the Lotus Renault GP team the “Lotus” part of the name is a title sponsor component, like Vodafone is with McLaren Mercedes. Renault cannot change the name of its chassis without potentially forfeiting its prize money, which this year is in the $40 million range.

So they key question is; what will the TV commentators and media describe those cars as? Fernandes believes that if we call them Lotus Renaults then its like calling Lewis Hamilton’s and Jenson Button’s cars Vodafone McLarens, which of course people do not do.

“Are there two Lotus teams? That’s a big question mark,” he said. “Lotus in its present form (on the Renault team cars) is a sponsor. It’s a Renault chassis and engine and the commentators will refer to them as Renaults. But if they do or not it doesn’t really matter, there is Manchester City and Manchester United (in football). It’s how we present our brand and what we are going to do with it.”

If the sponsorship of the team is allowed to carry with it chassis name association, argues Fernandes, then it opens up a raft of IP issues. Taken to its logical conclusion, it means that theoretically a team with no heritage could take a title sponsorship from a company called Williams and create an impression that it had Williams heritage.

Fernandes was also keen to underline the credentials his operation has in Asia. His strength – and one of his main attractions to Bernie Ecclestone and to F1 as a whole – is is ability to take brands into the Asian market, thanks to the strong network he and his shareholders in Team Lotus have throughout Asia. Fernandes owns Air Asia. So whatever they are promoting on the side of a Lotus car is reaching a large and engaged audience in a vast emerging market that banks and consumer brands are desperate to engage.

Behind all of this is a strategy, that will become clear in the next year, “We have a very powerful billboard on the car,” he says. “Some of the brands don’t have to be Lotus related, they could be things that we own or wish to develop, ” he said, indicating perhaps products that his group may be developing away from racing. “We’ve been formulating what we can do in terms of using the Team Lotus brand and you’ll see many things coming up which haven’t been done before.”

So it looks for the moment as though there will be four cars with Lotus associations on the grid in Bahrain next March and then the court case will either force them to change – if they lose – or keep things the same, if they win.

I’m meeting Bahar on Wednesday in London so I shall look forward very much to hearing his side of the story on this.

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1

Just so everyone knows. On the TV graphics currently the rules will mean that Team Lotus would appear as Lotus Renault and will display with all the heritage/stats of the old Team Lotus/Lotus Racing(as in 2010). Lotus Renault GP are still Renault and as the chassis is Renault they will appear as just Renault. If the chassis becomes Lotus then there would be a conflict and someone would have to compromise. But my question is if the Renault team officially becomes a Lotus team then who has the history and stats. Danny Behr says they are trading on the history of the Toleman/Benetton/Renault heritage but currently all the stats trade the Renault team as part of the original Renault team from the 80’s. All very confusing for the viewer and to be honest a little annoying for F1 purists. FOM and the FIA should basically say this is not possible. People will immediately make the assumption that Lotus Renault GP are the Lotus team with all the heritage, this is because not only are they carrying an original and iconic Team Lotus livery but are also using the official Lotus badge. All detrimental to the Lotus brand I fear.

2

And yet no 1Malaysia F1 fans have answered : Why did TF want the Lotus name in the first place? .

4

What I’d like to see is Bahar lead Group Lotus down the wrong path entirely, and Fernandes swoop in to not only buy out Group Lotus’ road-car division, but also end up with a stake in the Renault F1 team!

That would be poetic justice, in my eyes.

Personally, I see Group Lotus as an off-shoot of Team Lotus to raise funds for the racing effort, and they should recognize that their scope limits them to road-based cars. Scuderia Ferrari came first, and Ferrari road cars were later produced to fund the racing efforts. In both cases, the racing team is the main entity, and the road car division is a fund-raiser.

Group Lotus should stick to GT racing, using modified road cars. Formula cars and Le Mans should be off-limits to them, as it is the domain of Team Lotus.

5

Your book arrived a couple of weeks ago James (sent to my other nom de guerre) for which Mille Grazie.

I shall keep it until Christmas/New Year has died down,relatives dispersed and F1 withdrawal symptoms are kicking in.

Assuming you also write a book again next year we are already seeing some juicy prospective stories which you will no doubt cover in depth.

Though you will be forgiven for not writing if you return to the UK BBC commentary box, lets face it everyone wants you back with Martin. (almost everyone)

6

Hi James,

I received my copies of your book and from what I’ve read of it so far it’s a great summary of the key events. An excellent read, and reminders of just how many things had happened in 2010.

I’m hoping for some long trips in the lead up to Christmas to get through the remainder.

Wishing you and your family a great Christmas and all the best for 2011.

Regards
Andy

P.s personal highlight of the year speaking to eddie Irvine. Thanks for the opportunity.

7

Thanks for that

8

Another great piece, James in what is becoming a truly fascinating off-season drama.

Great that you will be talking with Dany Bahar next week too in order to gain first-hand latest insight into his side of the story.

James, would you possibly be able to ask Dany on our behalf whether, with the F1 team now running in Black/Gold, whether the intention is now to have the KVRT Lotus-affiliated IndyCar team and especially the GP2 and GP3 Lotus ART teams running in similar Black/Gold paint-scheme too?

I saw photos of Estaban Guitierrez testing for the Lotus ART GP2 team some weeks ago and the car was decked out in classic Lotus green/yellow scheme, yet that was some weeks before ‘Lotus Renault GP’ was announced and so would really be interested to see now whether the junior Group Lotus motorsport teams will adopt the same scheme as the F1 team.

Many thanks James and loving the blog as always

Best regards

Giuseppe

9

The longer this drags on the more Fernandez will lose credibility with the fans, claiming rights to a heritage that should be left alone in history.

He would earn more respect to rebrand his team, and build it up from scratch and create his own piece of history in F1.

10

I am surprised that both Renault and Genii Capital have come completely unscathed this far.

It’s no secret Carlos Ghosn never was an F1 fan (I think Fernando Alonso felt this at the end of 06 when he sighed for McLaren). I find it surprising the car can be named a Renault despite selling the remaining 25% of Renault F1 to Group Lotus.

So we have Renault F1 (chassis) no longer owned by Renault cars and Team Lotus no longer owned by Lotus cars (albeit since the early 1990s).

You’ll have to admit this is an artificial situation created by the legislator and lawyers alike; and this naming rights business is proving to be complete nonsense to the fans.

11

…”intricate chess match”… is great analogy. I think high stakes poker is just as appropriate! Who is bluffing?!

Dany Bahar is betting the house with all the announced motorsport activities (F1, Indy etc). If it fails to come together, he will be walking away from the table with no clothes and a reputation in tatters.

Tony is playing the odds wisely and is keeping emotions off the table. But are his pockets as deep as what Bahar has access to? I suspect they aren’t.

12

Good call by Fernandes and, given Mike Gascoyne’s tweets, almost inevitable.

They can even adapt some of the Black-Gold livery competition entries if they want to “keep faith” with fans. I thought this one could be adapted nicely for BRG+Yellow scheme:

http://j.mp/hsdUYU

Black => Green

Gold => Yellow

Make rear wing match front (lose stripe on rear wing which would compromise sponsorship), flair the yellow strip towards the rear of the car. Nice. 🙂

13

Is anyone else wondering whether Mike and Tony were pulling a fast one about the black and gold colour scheme?

I wondered whether they put that one out there to put Group off the scent of using the green/yellow livery.

For whats its worth, I think the green and yellow is a fantastic colour scheme.

In reality, neither team has the real heritage of Colin Chapmans original one, however I’d put my support behind Team Lotus (or Team 1 Malaysia or whatever people choose to call them).

They came in and built a very respectable team from scratch, with good F1 people, two good drivers and they’ve made serious moves on the tech front for 2011 with redbull and renault.

It adds another fascinating aspect to 2011, whichever one of the lotus teams you support/follow.

14

True… also, if you look at it another way, only one of the teams actually hired two drivers… the other team has a pay driver. A few more points to Team Lotus for that difference!

15

Im glad they have stayed with the British Racing Green. Its just not f1 without. I have never really associated Lotus with the black and gold era so much.

I believe the green and yellow was always more lotus and surprised that Group Lotus didnt go that way to start with.

16

I don’t think the Lotus racing green was ever British Racing Green, it was a green with more yellow in it than proper BRG.

BRM had the true British Racing Green & remained constant on all their cars.

17

They should lose the yellow stripe down the nose of the car. Looked great on the ’49 in 1967, but modern F1 cars are so much more slender, making it look pants. Just go British racing green with yellow accenting, burgundy interior.

18

It was only when Team Lotus raced in the Indy 500 that they added the yellow stripe, and then carried over the practice to F1, F2, etc. Therefore, running a solid green car would still be in keeping with Lotus heritage.

Alternatively, why not extend the yellow to the full width of the nose? Then it would not look ridiculously thin (my only gripe with the current scheme), and it would remove the cluttered look. Also, just green and yellow; no white accent lines… and white circles with black numbers!

19

that’s a very good point about the slender nose and like your thinking on the overall scheme

20

Agree,

1. … and they should have a brighter green. So far, it looks quite dark on screen. They can draw inspiration from Ferrari: their red sparkles on television.

2. Have all yellow barge boards with large vintage numbers!

3. Put an effort on typeface! It really pays off.

4. Get rid of the stripes on the nose and the barge boards. They add graphic clutter and look messy with the sponsor logo’s. If not, simplify them as much as possible and make them wide. Please, no G string stripes.

21

Hi James.

Bahar has a very big problem on his hands. For his plans to succeed, he needs a lot of money, i.e. sell a lot of cars plus 99xlottary.

It’s an impossible task to achieve, given that he doesn’t have a solid manufacturer support (Proton sale’s are small), has a lot of money to invest on product development, and he’s going to compete with Ferrari, Porsche, Mclaren, Lamborghini, Aston-Martin, and even Mercedes (SLR), Audi (R8), Nissan (GT-R) and Jaguar. Who’s going to splash the money to buy a good chassis with a toyota engine, when they can buy something of the above mentioned.

I really hope that Tony Fernandes succeeds and remains independent, because Bahar’s Lotus will go down in a few years, and to see the whole Lotus (factory + Team Lotus) disappear would be a tragedy, all due to a single man’s exacerbated and childish ego.

22

I fear for lotus as a carmaker as well. They have had a good deal of success with the Elise and the Europa.

I would have liked them to add an esprit replacement and for it to be successful before adding others.

These sort of multi car rollouts are a challenge even for Ferrari/Porsche.

While I don’t support Danny bahar on the F1 project, I’d hope Lotus as a car group will be around for a long while yet.

23

Proton os co-owned by Petronas, huge petrochemical Malasian company – Petronas towers. I feel they will be going well enough.

24

If Petronas wanted to support Group Lotus they wouldn’t put all the money on the Mercedes GP Team. Seriously, which marque has more relevance on these days: Mercedes or Group Lotus/Proton?

25

I can’t remember where I read this, but I believe that TF’s Team Lotus was considered by Bernie and the FIA to be a continuation of the traditional Team Lotus. Therefore they had received extra money and such along the way.

Therefore I would expect that TF will continue to be Team Lotus, and Renault will be Renault.

26

Enzo Ferrari is not around and from my understanding the Ferrari family have little to do with the company (car or F1) owned by Fiat. Yet the synergy between road cars and F1 is huge.

Just because Colin Chapman isn’t around, why can’t people allow the company that sells Lotus cars to supervise their own F1 team? It’s shouldn’t have to be about simply buying history because of a loophole. And why can’t TF use his passion to promote his own Brands?

I wonder how he would feel if someone brought the naming rights to Air Asia in Europe and went flying!

In my view he is clearly duping a whole lot of lotus fans with his real intentions to make money. Fact…. he also stated to the Malaysian press that he would play the Malaysian national anthem if the team got a podium! How much respect for heritage is that!

27

He would have to sell the rights to Air Asia, just like Hunt sold the rights to Team Lotus. It seems to me that Proton is just doing this to “bother” TF, why didnt they start a team before TF? Why did they allow TF to use the Lotus name. Its like they didnt realize how much money they could make and how many products they could promote, and now they are just trying to cash in on someones else’s success. Pitifull

28

Because first they needed to change all management – first in Proton, then in Lotus. Bahar came to late to prevent the licence to Fernandes, but at least he could revoke it.

29

I don’t see any problems with the anthems. Benetton moved from English to Italian anthems and it was still the same team. If anything, it probably went more English as time wore on.

Change comes with time; and it is totally plausible that Team Lotus could have done the same as Benetton. Racing heritage is more important than nationality in my view. If this provides any reassurance, Malaysia also used to be a part of the British Empire.

30

Very strange how the name has gone unused and unwanted for many many years, and now two organizations want it, both Malaysian, of all things!

Four cars hasn’t hurt the Red Bull name.

31

Bring back Tyrell!

32

It’s still there, re-re-re-re-branded as Mercedes.

(Tyrrell >> BAR >> Honda >> Brawn >> Mercedes, hence the four “re’s”)

😉

33

Fernandes thinks he is more Lotus than the car company that makes Lotus Cars.

Only he’s not, he’s just a crafty, PR-savvy (notice how he plays the victim always) guy who has an old trademark and the audacity to try and stop Lotus racing under it’s own name in F1.

Oh, and he thought of the black/gold idea for 2011 second.

To his credit, he does know how to work the media, but I think if you dig a bit deeper you start to see past the smoke and mirrors.

34

I like Fernades, I wasn’t sure at first but I think he has the right personality for formula one. I like the gentle rivalry he had with Richard Branson and the way in which he has been respectful to Lotus and Norfolk.

Bahar on the other hand is coming across as a play ground bully that wants what the other kid has.

I think Bahar plans for Group Lotus are doomed, he’s trying to do too much too soon.

I hope Fernades keeps the Team Lotus name and commentators refer to the other team as simply Renault.

35

Tom Walkinshaw has sadly passed away today. A gentleman who started racing himself and then into a successful independent team owner.

I have to go with TF as the real Lotus on the grid, we know he is using an old team name, but he has put it on the line and started from the bottom to do things his/the old fashion way and not paid his way to the top.

The whole TF team is Lotus, when they all signed on for jobs it was with Lotus and all want to see the name regain a high ranking.

Buying into a company can not make it a team, its a business opportunity. It’s buying someone else’s work, Renaults work and for that alone it doesn’t make it a Lotus?

It’s all about principles, how much hard work is put in. Like it is said, even if you only count the last year TF Lotus was racing, its more than Protons Lotus has ever raced.

One is a Lotus and the other is a Renault!

36

I can’t but ask what is all the fuss and hype by the media. There was nothing like this when Vodaphone or Petronias started sponsoring an F1 team, so why such fuss over just another sponsor? The cars remain Renault, even the team name remains Renault doesn’t it without FIA and the other teams agreement? so why such confusion. Air Asia was on two teams this year and nobody said anything, so why is having the word Lotus on two teams cars such a big issue? It’s not even big bucks sponsorship as according to the boss of Proton the total commitment to F1 comes out of the Lotus group marketing budget of less than 20 million per year. Renault must have desperate.

37

James, can you ask him how they are back as to come back you must have been there in the first place,also could you point out to him that the real TEAM LOTUS would not have to put a big LOTUS badge on the front nose of the car.The total signs would also be black and gold not red and white, it’s a RENAULT no matter what he says.

38

Hi James,

Personally I think (Team) Lotus have done a great so far and should continue with their success, Danny Bahar seems quite a character..

On a side not thankyou for my copy of 2010: Five Rivals, One Champion (won from the top 5 drivers competition), a great read, and the hindsight view added another dimension to the book! Also loved the postcard of your website banners enclosed, i’ve always wondered who creates them..

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and thanks for providing such a great insight this season; can’t wait for the next!

39

Great, thanks for that

40

Why don’t they call themselves Brabham instead!

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