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What GE deal means for Team Lotus
Posted By: James Allen  |  15 Jun 2011   |  5:57 pm GMT  |  80 comments

Team Lotus announced yesterday that it has closed a deal with General Electric as a “premium partner” of the F1 team and it’s worth taking a closer look at this deal which will put sponsorship money into the team, offer technological support and potentially provide an interesting media platform in the USA and elsewhere.

Jeff Immelt, CEO of GE with Fernandes and Kovalainen

GE has worked with Team Lotus team principal Tony Fernandes’ Air Asia business in the past and this is one of those deals which had been pending, waiting for an outcome in the nine month legal battle with Malaysian government backed Group Lotus.

The judge in that case found recently that Fernandes’ company does have the right to compete in F1 as Team Lotus. Fernandes says that more sponsorship deals will follow so that the team “can move up the grid.”

The details of the deal are that “GE branding will be seen on the Team Lotus T128 F1 cars and across the team’s entire race and factory structure from the British Grand Prix in July 2011, ” according to the Lotus statement.

It adds, “The partnership with GE provides extensive brand and business benefits to both parties, giving GE a high-profile global platform to showcase advanced technologies and providing Team Lotus with leading edge technological, R&D and manufacturing resources that will help accelerate the team’s progress, on and off track.”

The importance of GE is not to be underestimated. The world’s fourth largest brand, the conglomerate is one of the world’s largest companies, operating in such diverse fields as aviation, power generation, medical, finance and entertainment. It owns NBC Universal with Comcast.

Universal is the distributor of the Senna movie and among its TV interests it controls the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and business channel CNBC, which is ironically a partner of Lotus’ rival new team Virgin Racing. It is also big in the theme park business.

The access to GE technology will be useful to Team Lotus as will its media platforms, particularly when trying to market the team – and even Caterham cars – in the USA.

Also this week Team Lotus confirmed “a deal with Williams F1 to use one of the Grove based team’s two wind tunnels from September 2011.

“Team Lotus will now be running a two tunnel programme, with the Aerolab facility in Italy working in conjunction with the Williams F1 site in the UK while work continues on the team’s own wind tunnel at Hingham. When that facility is operational all activity will be transferred to the team’s own site.”

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Want to promote F1 and any given F1 team in the US? Put together a promotion like Ferrari did in Moscow and RB did on a beach in the Dominican Republic. Have an F1 car work its magic in Times Square in NYC, also known as the the crossroads of the world in the capital of the world. You will not only get domestic coverage you will get international coverage as well.


Have a look at GE’s developments for the EV world.


Point me in the right direction, please


Hi James, just noticed if you click on the red link on my name it takes you to a YouTube clip, that should be a start. I really appreciate the info you produce on F1, the background and depth of analysis really enhances the sport/business for me – I hope you have opportunities with the UK TV coverage developments. Best of luck. J-P


I have read the comments with interest. Tony Fernandes is a very smart businessman, and if he were really a potential buyer of Group Lotus in the past, I’m sure Dany Bahar viewed him as competitor from day one!

I have a project I have been promoting:

and attended an Asian strategic leadership conference two years back with Alex Yoong who now works for Team Lotus. This was prior to Tony starting his F1 adventure. Alex did express an interest in getting Lotus to work with him on projects, he had/has a race team.

Interesting times


First DELL and now GE, Mr.Fernandes is certainly a busy chap !

I just hope that “Premium Partner” doesnt mean a change to a white and blue car as the traditional colours of green with yellow are excellent (in my opinion anyway).

Might delay purchasing a team jacket for a bit longer…


This is a serious team and now has serious money and backers with naming rights issues laid to rest.

Who would have thought it could come this far this quickly when FIA announced they were bringing back Lotus in Sept 2009.

Nino Judge I believe knew Tony Fernandes and still works at Team Lotus. He must be chuffed to bits.


Ok here is a curve ball and im thinking laterally and that can be quite difficult for me sometimes ; ) but can you see no picture of jarno in this nor many other pics since the launch and i get the feeling that heiki is the main man in lotus any thoughts on jarno being there for 2012 ??


@ Chris on that budget cap thing: they are comparing apples and oranges.

By definition that 40 mil cap did not include drivers salaries and/or PR stuff. The big teams probably spend more on PR than on the actual racing team.


You know what’s funny is how confusing and silly this whole mess with Lotus was last year and now I don’t even give it a second thought that we now have two teams with the same but yet slightly different names.

Jacques from France

This deal is beneficial to both companies or in other words it’s a “win-win” Why so? Look at the portfolio of the Tune Group: aviation, media, finance.. very similar to GE. On top of that AirAsia will soon announce the purchase of about 200 Airbus most probably fitted with GE engines, financed by GE Finance (wet lease) and maintained by GE. An ideal world for both companies; real partnership!


Hopefully we’ll start seeing Sheinhardt Wig Company branding on the car.


We can but hope!!


Good to see GE return the F1 world.

Where were these American companies like GE & RIM when USA F1 were in desperate need of sponsors.

Is there going to be a 13th team on the grid anytime in the near future?

I hope Honda returns to partner McLaren once their Mercedes deal runs out and TATA buys out HRT and renames it Jaguar.


Actually, RIM is Canadian, eh?


Tony Fernandes never ceases to impress. When you see teams with the pedigree of Williams struggling to get anyone on board, what Team Lotus achieves is just about amazing.

I wonder up to what point Tony wouldn’t fancy Bernie’s job in a few years. He seems to have more vision than most enterpreneurs. Just a thought…


This is great news for all F1, fans, the Sport itself. Fernandes is clearly here to work, signing a sponsor as big as GE to a midfield team is a hugely impressive feat and brilliant news for the future health and credibility of the entire sport.

Also, given the stupid fight over the name/image, I am massively impressed by TF’s ablity to deal on that level. He is going to build a fantastic team and bring a lot of good into the world we love.

Great news, really.


It will be interesting to see where Team Lotus are in a couple of seasons. They certainly look like they are the movers and Shakers. I wonder if there is a particular area of technology that GE will bring to the team. lets see.




To be honest, I’m a bit baffled by this. GE barely sells anything consumer-oriented under its own brand these days (with the exception of GE Money). Nearly everything sold under the GE brand is heavy industrial technologies, sold to big corporations, govrnments and defence agencies. Their consumer products are marketed under their sub-group’s brand name, such as Universal, NBC, etc.

In fact, GE barely advertises these days under the GE brand, as they don’t need to. Their mass market products are advertised a lot under different brands (and as James said, you can see one of them on the Virgin car), but pretty much never under the ‘GE’ moniker.

Why are they now getting involved in F1 and with Team Lotus under the GE brand? If this was a simple sponsorship/advertisment deal, it would have made far more sense for GE to use one of its consumer-oriented brands.

Unless, there’s more to this deal than just sponsorship. It makes perfect sense for such a big engineering company, with huge interest in aviation and aerospace among other fields, to become involved in F1 on a technological level. If this indeed is the the level of commitment that GE is bringing to F1, this is far more exciting than anything that has happended to F1 in the last decade.

I still think it’s proabbly just a sponsorship/ad deal, but their involvement under the parent company’s brand is puzzling, which makes it plausible that this is something much bigger…


Perhaps you overlook the fact that their non-consumer markets are still run by real people who can be influenced by brand name exposure?


In the US they sell light bulbs and consumer appliances under the brand “GE”.


And in the UK. All my energy saving bulbs are GE.


read the statement….

“premium partner”

…giving GE a high-profile global platform to showcase advanced technologies

…..providing Team Lotus with leading edge technological, R&D and manufacturing resources that will help accelerate the team’s progress, on and off track

….knowing TF, that man is no bluff!!…anyway, giving him 6mths-1yr to showcase the results…


In addition to their appliance, aviation, finance, and entertainment divisions it should also be noted that they are also a nuclear weapons manufacturer.

Just saying is all…..


You’re right, that red button could be a nice secret weapon for Jarno and Heikki to use…


Here’s hoping they can make the lotus a weapon.


That’s great news. I’d love to see Team Lotus climbing the grid with proper financial sponsorship.

Renault Lotus surely won’t remain as such long term (wouldn’t like to be Bahar today).

If reports from France are correct – with Sarkozy tapping Boullier to write a feasibility report on a future French GP – I don’t think the current Group Lotus arrangement will last long.

After all, Renault has proven itself to be the top engine supplier in F1 and has a proven championship-winning squad based at Enstone.

Why be sponsored by a weird Malaysian outfit, when you could get sponsors and govt support at home to be the de facto French national team?

I think Renault will eventually wake up to the possibilities and buy back their squad now there’s central govt interest in F1 in France.

In short, don’t fancy Bahar’s chances much.


I’m predicting that the Lotus part of Lotus/Renault will be a distant memory by the end of 2012 and Mr. Fernandes will once again have the Lotus name to himself in F1. And “that” will be a good thing.


And what do you base this prediction on?

Group Lotus went with Genii because there are much further up the grid than Team Lotus.

It is likely Group Lotus will go ahead with buying a team.

At the moment Renault looks like a prime candidate, however, there is still an issue of losing the CVC money with the changing of team name unless all other teams unanimously agree e.g. BMW Sauber becoming Sauber.


1st: BMW, Honda and Toyota finding that the expense of F1 in financialy trying times is unjustifibable and unaffordable. 2nd:The escape clause provided for in the Lotus/Renault agreement at the end of 2012.And 3rd: yes, the Maylaisian government is involved but Proton is not a winner and it’s soon, because of the removal of tariffs, to do even worse.4th;The afore mentioned manufactures in F1 had enormous advertising budgets but found that they needed to concentrate on their core buissness. Proton will or should come to that same conclusion as will Lotus and the Maylaisian goverment. $500 million won’t last long in F1 and World business climate of today. And lastly, you may have heard that the Pessimist may be right in the end, but the optimist will have enjoyed the ride. I’ve been the biggest optimist my entire life but I can’t see a good outcome in the Lotus/Renault future.


Group Lotus have bitten off far more than they can chew to buy an F1 team, just look at how many production cars they plan on building and all their other motorsports plans they have in the next few years, where do you suppose they are going to find all this extra cash from?


Group Lotus belongs to a Malaysian government onwed company (Proton).

I think you are underestimating them and the Malaysian finances. They are just about the second flagship brand from that country after Petronas (which was very obviuos when we were in KL for this year’s race).

From memory, Lotus cars have been losing money for years and they are in just about any form of motor racing at the moment. The government seems to have deep pockets over there…

Edward Valentine

It’s great to see a Heavyweight brand like GE in our sport. Since the tobacco era F1 has seen corporate banks come and go and some very logo-free cars and overalls. Let’s hope this starts a trend.

To go off topic somewhat I saw some of the Fernandes interview with CNN on Tuesday and he said something along the lines of F1 going through a major media change. Has a quiet deal been reached with Murdoch & Co as those rumours went away very quickly after the Turkish GP?


James – I’m interested in what’s happening at Virgin, are you planning any future entries on what they’re doing? Was their CFD approach not borne out, or was it more a tech/expertise/cost rift between them and Wirth Research?


CFD only approach was not great, was it? Lots afoot, big changes of technical structure. I think a move to a new factory. I’ll do something on it soon


More to the point, it demonstrates the amazing skill that Nick Wirth has in convincing people he has anything useful to say in F1.

Yes, Simtek were a brave attempt, and Wirth was in early to the idea of talking to fans on the Internet (he was posting to Usenet throughout their short life). But after that, his time at Enstone was a total disaster. He was, apparently, referred to fairly openly as Nick Wirthless, and Gerhard Berger was quoted afterwards as saying that Wirth designed three cars, all of them dogs. That’s perhaps slightly unfair, because the B197 probably wasn’t a dog, but it was the previous year’s Byrne/Brawn design which Symonds and Wirth developed, so Wirth’s influence was possibly less. The Front Torque Transfer debacle has to rank as one of the silliest incidents of the 1990s, because it was a heavy system that put weight in one of the worst places in the car which re-implemented, badly, an idea that had already been banned the previous season. I think we were all too busy laughing at BAR to notice just how badly Benetton were doing.

Wirth then left F1 for all sorts of odd things (something to do with robots, wasn’t it?) before returning to motorsport to do various things in sportscar racing and LMP. With the best will in the world, LMP is not the most consistently sophisticated formula, and once you’re back from the very sharp end of Audi and Peugot, the standards are very variable indeed; the gulf between even successful LMP and F1 is huge, as Lola and Reynard found to their cost. Just because you are winning in LMP (and I don’t think Simtek cars were consistently doing even that) doesn’t mean much when you try to get onto the F1 grid.

So it is a mystery as to why Virgin thought they would succeed (in even “new team” definitions of success) with a technical partner who had been unsuccessful in F1 more than ten years ago, had been competent but not world-beating in LMP, had not worked in or for a significant F1 team in the interim, and wanted to use an approach which every aerodynamicist in the pitlane said wouldn’t work, with far less resources and historical data to calibrate that approach than other teams (like Sauber) who had tried it. It was bound to end in tears.

And meanwhile, look at the fantastic work Geoff Willis has done over at HRT. A tub with a chequered history designed by a GP2 shop, no budget to change it substantially, limited wind-tunnel time, and the car is doing as well as the other tail-enders with (essentially) pay drivers. It’s reliable, not embarrassingly slow, and is making progress from race to race. Willis has always been the thinking man’s star in the paddock (I once met him when I was working in the paddock and gibbered my enthusiasm for his work: I think he thought I was mad) but at HRT he’s really showing what he’s made of. He went to Red Bull to sort out their manufacturing, and it looks like he’s taken that skill to HRT: when was the last mechanical DNF?

Pat Symonds is no-one’s fool (let us put the appalling crash-gate thing down to a temporary rush of Falv’s blood to his head coupled with a misplaced desire to help his team coupled with the sort of midlife crisis that saw him wearing a gold chain whenever he was interviewed) but he’s no more a designer of modern F1 cars than Nick Wirth is, although he has the advantage of having worked on modern F1 cars. He’s going to have his work cut out finding a design capability that isn’t going to look horrificly out of its depth next season. Their CFD approach means that they haven’t built _any_ wind-tunnel calibration data over the past two years. They’re talking about buying the bones of the Arrows/Super-Aguri project, which has been kept on life support since SA folded its tent, but as to how realistic that is the basis for a 2012 car with the major regulation changes due for 2013, who can say?


Great post and very insightful thanks.

I hope to see more comments from you in the future on this site.


Fernandes has done a much better job than Branson, and Team Lotus has definitely shown Marussia and HRT the right way to enter F1.

They really need a better driver than Jarno Trulli who I think s/d consider retiring along with Schumacher and Barichello at the end of this year to make way for younger drivers. Hope Team Lotus gives Bruno Senna at least a go, and perhaps Karun Chandhok. These 2 drivers did not really get a fair outing in F1 with HRT’s first season. Although w/the sponshorship deals, Fernandes does not really have to look for a pay driver and can just sign up the best young lion available which is probably Hulkenberg.


Branson and Fernandes have completely different goals. Branson never wanted to be anything more than a sponsor, a goal he has now achieved.


I get the impression that he’s dropping into background and Marussia is moving into foreground


Me too. On the Fan Vision podcast, Pat Symonds just refer them to ‘Marussia’ instead of just ‘Virgin’ as most people do.


But he is spending almost 60million more (mostly his own companies money) than virgin and hrt, and yet is only 1 second or less ahead. He must be spending it all on PR to fool the masses


Not sure that’s true. Where do you get those numbers?


Forgive my general lack of knowledge in this area but given that Air Asia has recently signed a $600,000,000 deal with GE to supply aero engines over the next 20 years – how much of a ‘win’ is this really for Lotus?


Virgin stated they were voluntarily keeping to the US40mil proposed budget cap IIRC.

At the Autosport show Paul Stoddart said that one of the new teams last year spent US100mil( without naming them) . Can only assume it must have been Fernandes, as i doubt HRT had that sort of money…


Fernandes is a man to reckoned with. I believe F1 is lucky he turned his attention to the sport. Will he be doing a Red Bulling? No doubt but with a car background not drinks which is why I could never really atune with RB. But I hold the flag for Mark and found myself giving a sight of exhasperation when Jenson overtook Sebastian. Always saw Seb as the Big Thing coming but was not a big fan of the kid but he has matured since last year and hopefully will go on to big things. Perhaps even one day driving for Team Lotus (or will it be Cat(erham)?


Please remove


Yes, Well done all at Team Lotus, this is excellent news, all the things that lotus set out to do. I seem to remember team lotus last year putting themselves forward with the TV crews given interviews, tweeting during races … mmm seems other teams do it now ..


No excuses now…Team Lotus really have been terrible this year given all the ‘typical’ Gascoyne claims about challenging and getting ahead of the mid field teams-i mean they have a Renault engine and Red Bull rear end and cant even beat Williams who are rubbish.Relative to HRT they are woeful!


So you’re saying that a car that has generally been between 2 and 3 seconds a lap quicker to the HRT is ‘woeful’? Considering the relative ages of both operations, I’d say the performance of Lotus versus HRT is damn good. And they are slowly unlocking the potential of their package.


‘Slowly’unlocking the potential is right!HRT are existing and competing on a budget of about £2.50 so beating them by 2 or 3 seconds is ‘woeful’.All the big talk from Team Lotus pre-season was of challenging the mid-field teams like Force India,Torro Rosso and Williams and they’ve done nothing despite a’Red Bull’ back end and Renault engine.I dont rate Fernandes at all-its all about the PR not the on-track performance.


Tony Fernandes is doing an excellent job with Team Lotus, there isn’t a single team that wouldn’t have been thrilled to have GE as a sponsor. I think they’ll soon be putting to bed the notion that Team Lotus doesn’t belong in Formula One. Well done.


Who is saying they don’t belong in F1?


Isn’t Luca di M. still banging on about them?


To be fair LDM won’t be happy until every car on the grid is a Ferrari!!


Ferrari for one have been moaning. The rule (107%) state that HRT shouldn’t be at the start. And quite a few people on forums over the internet


At least last year, I remember Craig Baird and Daryl Beattie from One HD coverage in Australia suggesting that the new teams shouldn’t be in F1. Something like ‘if they are finishing the race 3 or more laps behind they shouldn’t be competing’.

While I don’t recall the specifically calling out Lotus this year, they have insinuated the same thing with HRT and Virgin.

So that’s one quick example of main stream media of the top of my head. While I can’t point fingers to anyone else, there has been talk of the new teams not really fitting into the F1 (HRT with its sponsorship and car building problems, Virgin and it’s CFD design being a dogs breakfast, not forgetting last years full tank issue).

But as ACB said, Lotus seems to be proving that the new teams can look, feel and perform up at the same level as the established teams.


Well last year is one thing, but I don’t recall hearing anyone this year saying they don’t belong


I’ve seen a lot of chatter on various sites saying that they shouldn’t be calling the team ‘Lotus’. I don’t know if those voices have abated since the naming issue went in Tony’s favour, but i hope they have.

Personally, I love the fact that my favourite team is now back and being run very much in the same spirit as the old team.

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