Today we had the official unveiling of the new black and gold livery by the Renault team, now sponsored by Group Lotus.
And with amazing timing, this evening the other Lotus, now known as Team Lotus, has put out a provocative video on You Tube of the rebranding of its HQ at Hingham with the classic Team Lotus logo and colour scheme.
Just before Christmas Hazel and Clive Chapman, the widow and son of Lotus founder Colin Chapman, issued a statement saying that they no longer support the efforts of Tony Fernandes’ team and do not wish him to call it Team Lotus. This was a blow to Fernandes who made much of the Chapman family’s support in the launch of the team and throughout last season.
But there has always been a faultline over what is Lotus and what is Team Lotus. After Group Lotus withdrew the five year licence for Fernandes’ team to use the Lotus name, on the grounds of a dispute over a T shirt and Fernandes struck a deal with David Hunt to use the rights to Team Lotus, the Chapman family lined up with Group Lotus and its CEO Danny Behar. They all feel that Team Lotus should be left to rest in peace.
Fernandes was at Hingham last week and today’s video shows the response of Fernandes and his technical director Mike Gascoyne to that pre-Christmas development.
The High Court in London is due to hear the dispute between the two sides this summer, but many in the F1 paddock feel that the season cannot be allowed to start with the uncertainty hanging. F1 sponsors I have spoken to recently all say that they would have a major problem with sponsoring either team with this confusion in place. But neither side looks remotely like backing down at the moment.
Meanwhile the Lotus sponsored Renault team has said today that it will race under a British racing licence. The team is based in Enstone, Oxfordshire, but as Renault is a French company they raced under a French licence. With Group Lotus’ involvement they have gone British.