It’s a story that has been running for 12 months and now two Formula 1 teams want to change their names, but the other teams are not going to make it easy for them.
Team Lotus wants to change the team name to Caterham F1 Team while the Renault team wants to change the “Lotus” in its name from a title sponsor to the team and chassis name, but both parties may have to wait until the F1 commission next meets in order to do so. The F1 commission normally meets in the first week of December, but Bernie Ecclestone has called for a meeting in the first week of November.
Both teams could change the team name when they want if they are prepared to forfeit their prize money for the previous season. As that is a significant amount of money – probably in excess of €40 million in Renault’s case, then the only way to achieve it is with a majority vote in the F1 commission. To quickly wave certain items through a fax vote sometimes is enough, but this weekend it has emerged that some rivals of the teams in question are understandably looking to have a proper debate about it.
Sauber in particular is keen to avoid making it too easy for teams to change names as they believe it damages the brands in F1. However Ferrari and HRT have an interest in this too and have pushed for a proper debate in the F1 commission, which is made up of teams, FIA, FOM, sponsors and circuit owners. There are 26 members of the commission and 18 votes would be needed for the name changes to take place.
It may be that a protocol is evolved as a result of this episode, for managing this kind of process in future.
Although it is understandable for rivals not to want to make life easy for each other in F1, at the same time if there are legitimate business reasons behind the name changes and the denial of the change would harm the business, it has not been F1’s practice in the past to block such moves, on the occasions when the matter has arisen, if there is sound business going on behind the move.
As Renault no longer has any stake in Renault GP team it makes sense for that team name to disappear. But F1 bosses will want to understand what Group Lotus’ long term intentions are before switching around Lotus names.
There was an issue over the renaming of Arrows in 1996, Tom Walkinshaw wanted to call it TWR F1. Ron Dennis at the time wanted to stop teams with famous names from being changed too easily. A few years later British American Tobacco bought Tyrrell and after some opposition from Walkinshaw, was allowed to rename the team BAR.
That team has since become known as Honda, Brawn and now Mercedes. At the time an FIA statement read, “The F1 Commission agreed that the Brawn team will be allowed to change its chassis name from Brawn to Mercedes. The team will continue to receive payments based on its historical performance. This has been granted on a one-off exceptional basis due to Mercedes-Benz’s long-term involvement and commitment to Formula One.”