Following on from Friday’s activity in the Lotus saga – where the Renault team together with its sponsor and shareholder Group Lotus took a big presence at the Autosport Show and launched the F1 livery, while rival Team Lotus rebranded its factory – today there have been more developments.
Group Lotus CEO Danny Bahar has said this weekend that he does not believe that the dispute between the two will end up in court, but when I put that to Team Lotus CEO Riad Asmat this afternoon he said that it was now certain that the F1 season will start with two Lotus related teams.
“It is feasible for there to be two Lotus teams in F1 this season, ” he said. ” I see no harm in that and we’ll see how it develops as the season goes on. It looks like the court case will not be before the third quarter of the year anyway.
“I don’t know if ultimately there will only be one Lotus in F1. We are Team Lotus, we’re entered with the FIA as Team Lotus and we will race as Team Lotus.”
There are two court cases, which will be heard “Autumn at the earliest”; one of them about the use of the Lotus name, the other over the termination of the 5 year licence.
However Group Lotus are seeking summary judgement next week, 24th January, in a preliminary hearing. This is quiet common if one party feels that it’s case is overwhelming, it can apply for summary judgement and if the judge is persuaded that the case is totally one sided he can rule accordingly and avoid the expense of both sides preparing for a full court case and free up High Court time.
Asmat added that he has not had any communication with Group Lotus recently.
Prior to taking on his role at Tony Fernandes’ Lotus Racing operation Asmat worked at Proton HQ in Malaysia and clearly once the five year licence was signed between the two companies, he and Fernandes had in mind to build the Lotus brand through F1 and then get control of the car company.
“When we started the programme with Tony and Mike Gascoyne it was a five year plan and we’re going to stick with it,” he said. “Obviously it didn’t work out, but it doesn’t mean we cannot be an engineering powerhouse, they cannot stop us from doing work on road cars. I like the way Caterham works with Lola; we could work with another party. As for building our own car, I don’t think that’s feasible at the moment.”
Asmat said that the team believes its new F1 car, powered by a Renault engine and with a Red Bull gearbox and hydraulics, will give it an improvement relative to the midfield teams of between 1.5 and 2 seconds a lap. “We should be mixing it with Sauber and Toro Rosso, ” he said. ” At the Valencia test (Feb 1st) I hope we show what we are made of. We need to get points this year (for top ten finishes). My head is on the block with the shareholders. They own planes, so if I don’t deliver I’ll be flown back to Kuala Lumpur!”
Over the winter the operation at Hingham in Norfolk has added 20 new staff and they are still recruiting in some areas. On the commercial and sponsorship side they have taken on American John Cutler, who was head of business development at Team HTC Columbia, the pro cycling team of British rider Mark Cavendish.