There will shortly be only one Lotus in F1 and it will be the black and gold cars, not the green and yellow.
The word this weekend in Monza is that a deal has been struck between the Malaysian owned Team Lotus and Group Lotus, which is a sponsor of the Renault GP team, to end the naming conflict. Tony Fernandes is understood to be on the point of applying to the FIA and FOM to change the name of his team to Caterham F1 Team.
Although the details have yet to emerge, it’s likely that, to avoid confusion, the Fernandes team will retain the green and yellow colour scheme – although they will surrender the Lotus badge – while the Genii owned Renault GP team will remain with the black and gold colour scheme, with the Lotus badge. This will also apply to their respective GP2 teams, Caterham Team Air Asia and Lotus ART respectively.
The trigger for the resolution appears to have been the deal Fernades struck recently with the Malaysian government for a slice of Malaysian Airlines. Part of the deal requirement on the government side was that the Lotus conflict should end. Lotus is part of the state-owned Proton company.
Fernandes has clearly seen this coming and earlier this year acquired Caterham in order to have a brand under his control around which he could rally his racing efforts. He can also align the F1 engineering with the road cars and sell a “track to road” story in his marketing efforts, as Ferrari and McLaren do, albeit to the budget end of the sportscar market.
The agreement works for Group Lotus boss Dany Behar by removing an obstacle. He will finally be able to reunite Team Lotus with the main Lotus brand and the way will be clear for them to rename the F1 team Lotus, should they wish to do so. That was one of the aims he stated when Lotus partnered with Genii on the Renault team.
There will be the issue of renaming the chassis for both teams, which is tightly controlled under the Concorde Agreement, but that can happen as long as its unanimously agreed by all the teams.
The end of the conflict makes sense for both sides and for the viewing public, which has been thoroughly confused by the last season.
As mentioned here last week, Fernandes’ team is also likely to move soon from its base in Norfolk. It is known that representatives of the team have visited the old TWR facility at Leafield in Oxford, which was recently the base for Super Aguri. They have also looked at sites at Silverstone and near Cambridge. They are recruiting staff, like many teams in F1 at the moment. Mercedes is looking to fill 140 new positions and Virgin is actively recruiting.
It remains to be seen how Fernandes will weave his latest acquisition, the Queens Park Rangers football club, into the mix with the racing teams. Both offer a global media platform to sponsors, albeit with quite different audiences.