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Bahar extends his Lotus contract and talks Raikkonen, takeovers and pay drivers
Posted By: James Allen  |  12 Dec 2011   |  7:24 pm GMT  |  78 comments

Today Dany Bahar the CEO of Group Lotus entertained a small group of media at a lunch at the RAC Club in London’s Pall Mall. This was the second year of this event.

On the agenda this time were Kimi Raikkonen, the possibility of Group Lotus taking over the F1 team from Genii or vice versa, Lotus Renault GP’s rejection of “pay drivers” and the future of Eric Boullier as team principal of the team.

It was confirmed that Bahar has been awarded a four year contract extension, following a visit by the board of Lotus holding company Proton to the HQ in Hethel, Norfolk. With the uncertainty over the naming of the team and of Tony Fernandes’ team now called Caterham F1, Bahar says that he has extended the agreement with the Enstone based team from seven years to 10 years.

And as the cars are now called Lotus, with all the benefits that accrue from that, there is no need for such strong Lotus branding on the cars, so next year there will be less.

He describes the relationship with the F1 team as a “real partnership” in the sense that it goes beyond a sponsorship.

I asked him about the stories doing the rounds in F1 circles that either he was going to buy out Genii’s shares in the team, or that Genii was going to buy Group Lotus from Proton.

Bahar’s response was not to rule out share exchange or a sale one way of the other in future, but he was adamant that, “that’s not happening” at the present time.

“Me personally with Gerard Lopez I have a big respect, he has the same with me. Our companies work together on big decisions, we meet monthly, there is no bad feelings.

From the beginning when we started to design with Genii and Lopez and Eric Lux it was always the plan to one day do more than just a commercial sponsorship, an exchange of shares or something. One day it might happen it might not. It’s not that we try to buy them out or they try to buy us out; that’s not going on at all.”

Bahar made a very interesting comment on the change of strategy with the drivers being indicative of a wider objective change for the team,

“The decision we took was to bring the team to the next level, to restructure the team, bring in new technical talent and an experienced driver, not to go after pay drivers any more or look for the highest bidder any more,” he said “It’s to get more and more competitive as it was in 2005 and 2006.”

Bahar spoke about the hiring of 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen as lead driver for the team starting next year. He worked with the Finn at Ferrari and knows him well, but admits that there is an element of risk in taking the 32 year old on a comeback.

“It is always a big amount of money when you employ a former world champion. It’s always bigger than to get a young driver,” said Bahar.

“You also expect from an experienced world champion, although he has not driven now for two seasons, but he is still a world champion.

“Undoubtedly he has talent, and we just have to see how quickly he now copes with the new environment, new car, new tyres, new everything, and we hope he will do this very quickly.”

Speaking of risk, he brushed off the recent ski mobile crash that Raikkonen suffered,

“It is part of our job to do things that are risky, and we do it commercially and corporately.

“Kimi does it in his own life. I like these characters. It’s unfortunate if he hurts himself, but it’s part of life.”

There have been some suggestions from well placed sources that Raikkonen’s deal with the team is groundbreaking in its structure in that it involves him gaining equity in the team as he goes along, becoming a shareholder, along with some powerful investors he brings along. I put this to Bahar and he said simply,

“I don’t know. I don’t think so. But who knows?”

There has also been speculation in F1 that team principal Eric Boullier’s days with the team might be numbered, but Bahar gave his support to the Frenchman,

“After a not so good year you are often criticised, and as he’s at the helm he will be criticised, and it’s not the last time he will be criticised,” said Bahar.

“The important thing is he learns from it and identifies the areas where he has to strengthen, and he has done that. He has a clear plan going forward.

“We trust him to manage it perfectly, and there is no reason why we should doubt him on that.”

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Hi, James.

The people who support Kimi, have a questions.

Will the Boullier little better support Grosjean against Kimi.

Coz mr.Boullier can lobby for their interests as manager of Grosjean.

Coz his interest is to raise the price of this strange guy.


I don’t think so.


Thanks for the reply James.

We hope you’re right, and the repetition of the situation for Kimi like in 2008 in a Ferrari will not.


Dear James ,

i have been following F1 since mika hakkinen won first world champiionshipo in 1998. and ever so fell in love with finns.

coming to kimi i wonder why people always ask about his motivation.he always out performed the car in every car he has driven.

infact there is no difference between the driving capabilities of alonso and kimi. probably its just that the former is an extrovert and the later an introvert.

if people really think alonso is so great, he could have bought out massa’s seat at ferrari instead of kimi’s !

also wanted to ask you in person is it true that car was developed to liking of a driver that the team likes rather than the driviers capabilities?

i mean looking back in time… senna vs prost, mansell vs piquet, schumacher vs barrichello , alonso vs fisichella, hamilton vs alonso ,kimi vs massa, hakkinen vs coulthard.

i am refering to the times these two were in the same team. wondering how this works in the team?


Press like to make up stories…and only fools would rather understand kimi via the press rather from himself~~!!


He doesnt want to trade on past historys but painted the cars black and gold?… yher that makes sense.


And speaking of Judd engines makes me think V10’s.

It seems that starting 2013 the Viper is back! With that honkin’ big V10 up front!

Now *there is a motorcar!


Didn’t anyone ask about the drag that Lotus is causing on Proton financials, and the sustainability of the current arrangement?

Following is quoted from Malaysian paper The Star, Nov 30th.

‘Proton Holdings Bhd net profit plunged 76% to RM15.5mil for the second quarter ended Sept 30 compared with RM65.9mil recorded in the previous corresponding quarter as higher expenses incurred by subsidiary Lotus Group International Ltd dragged down earnings’



If I did the conversion right that means they are down about $15 mil US. Are they seriously attributing *all that to Lotus’ “higher expenses” ?


What surprises me most is the extension of Bahar’s contract. what has he done to deserve that? All the highly public marketing associated with 5 new cars has now been withdrawn, and a new plan with less products over a longer period.

The cost of sponsoring the Enstone team I estimate at £3000 per car at least on current sales rates.

How does he do it? You can fool some of the people…….

What do you think James?


He’s making a big splash in Indycars, so maybe thats it. They get mentioned in the same breath with Chevy and Honda engines now,which is big-league stuff over here.

They will have 4 teams running ‘their’ engines, from Judd, and it appears 2 running the Black & Gold livery and maybe 1 running green & gold ‘customer’ colors. All to be known as ‘Lotus’ evidently.

Interestingly I’ve seen reports that the ‘Lotus’ engine (Judd) has come in 40 lbs under min weight so they will be able to add ballast to it however they like.

Whatever you think about the guy, he’s getting more publicity in the US than all of F1 is.


Personally I can not wait to see Kimi back in F1 and gives performance with respect to insurance lotus will be there


Its quite interesting to see how teams develop, its strange to me to se a team that was Tyrrell become BAR, then Honda,then Brawn and now Mercedes. Or Toleman, who lost their star driver to Lotus and competed with them, to become Benneton, then Renault, then Lotus. Then there’s Red Bulls who has seen several different names. Maybe it’s just me but I find that fascinating.


Its wonderful to see how Kimi has turned a team once disliked into a team which is spoken of passionately… and he yet has to step into the car 🙂


Wow! So much negativity!

The Lotus name, a good team, two World Champions and people are still moaning?!?

Personally If I were involved in the team and read this negative BS i’d be even more determined to succeed.

Good luck Lotus and Enstone.


Was the big bear in attendance?




I’m delighted to see Renault go for talent over money. Its a real statement of intent.

They’ve been a top team for quite some time, and hopefully putting in place those two drivers will push them on.

btw James, I’ve been hearing from a few sources that Robert K has a test opportunity with ferrari in the spring (in an old enough car of course). I for one thing that probably only ferrari could afford to give him the number of test days he may need behind closed doors. I really hope he is able to return to F1, and him being able to return with ferrari would be excellent for the sport.


That was written in Gazzetta last weekend. I’d not be surprised, but boy will it put the car amongst the pigeons for Massa!


Absolutely, I had a wry smile when I read it thinking what felipe would be thinking of it.

I think its a great prospect to see Robert at Ferrari. If its anything to do with application and willpower RK will be back to his best.

Although they wouldnt be doing anything not allowed of course, as Massa is out of contract end of next season, and Robert has the potential to be a great driver for ferrari.


Any mention of Kubica or is that relationship well and truly consigned to the history books?


Why isn’t Eric Bully Boullier fired??! It’s pretty obvious that his popularity is down to zero and his management style is not what the team need.

Maybe consider getting Flavio Briatore back? Hoenstly every other principal on the grid are better than this Frenchman who does nothing but bad-mouth his drivers.


You folks clearly don’t get enough snow over there. Snow mobile? Ski mobile?

Here in Canada, where it snows, we say ‘snowmobile.’ Or, if you want to be hyper local, ‘skidoo.’ If you want to feel acceleration as intense, if not more, than a sportbike, come over and try one.


I’m in Finland, and here it’s called a moottorikelkka, which is literally a motor-sled. Not much mention of snow, but then, there’s no need!

Good that Kimi is back – will he come back more motivated or less motivated? We shall see…


i hate to say that Kimi is going to be an epic fail. Nobody would love more than me if it turns out the other way…but i dont see it.

i have been a kimi fan all along in his bright and dull days but i am worried now that his reputation is going to be at stake…

people change with time…but i am not sure kimi will.

is he really motivated? i will never doubt his talent and skill but only his motivation….and i would really really hate if he gets beaten by romain….


Give the “Kimi’s not motivated” a rest already. Proof that if you repeat a lie often enough it becomes truth.


Many so call fans often take the press perception into account instead of Kimi’s~~!! You know Kimi dont give a sh@t about this…and nvr bother to explain himself….hence the misunderstanding~~~


Kimi’s motivation to race has never been a problem.


Unless Lotus can deliver a good package, we might see its two rookie drivers (relative to the new tyres) do even worst than this year.

James, any news on Petrov and how the whole deal came to be?

I’m no fan of Petrov, but to be ousted like that (even with a contract), puts F1 drivers on thin ice. We know Kimi was paid 25 million to walk, but Kimi had lost his motivation. Petrov on the other hand, seemed desperate to keep his seat, so one must wonder, what compensation did he get?


Kimi mentioned that he left because of things around F1 …not motivation~~!! Having ditch by ferrari due to Santander ‘s sponsorship …how would you feel???


James, as a suggestion for your site I think it would be a great improvement to make each picture on the home page corresponding to an article a clickable link so that it is much easier to go to the full version. It is annoying to have to hunt for the small link.


If you click on the headline (in red) it also takes you to the article.


Thanks, we’ll think about that


James, Being that this upcoming year rule changes are not that drastic and teams performances probably will not change much either. Did Dany Bahar mention any specifics that might make them more competitive with the top 4 other teams. I am thinking that Kimi is going into 2012 with realistic expectations. And banking on 2013 engine changes to rise to the top. And with Kimi having equity in the team, it would be a brilliant move on his part.


I thought the engine changes will happen from 2014…


Your right. I guess i got a little ahead of myself looking forward to changes


Correct me if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t you consider doing away with exhaust-blown diffusers a “drastic” change?


I love my lotus cars , but not this team called ” lotus ” I think most fans will support Carterham


OMG! Are you for real? Of course Lotus fans will follow the Lotus team?

Let’s get one thing straight. Tony Fernandes has never had anything to do with the Colin Chapman company Lotus. Never.

Ask yourself this?

Why did TF want to run an F1 team promoting somebody elses product???

Money. Apart from awesome sports cars – Lotus also happens to be an appealing brand. A Great British brand. And Asians love a British brand with history.

But ultimately it didn’t make sense, and he didn’t.

So he purchased he’s own car company, and changed the F1 team identity to promote he’s own product.

Now that he is out the way. The confusion can stop.

Lotus are Lotus. Caterham are Caterham.

Choose whoever you want?


True that a lot of people with follow Caterham (myself included), but more for their attitude towards racing more than anything else. Of course there’re going to be some die-hards which will follow Lotus just for its name.

There’s nothing wrong either way. End of the day it’s the racing which moves the fans, not really the branding exercises.


All I see this team doing for the last 2 seasons is ruining its drivers’ careers… I have a feeling it will continue



Apologies for a completely off topic post, but I thought I’d ask anyway.

Do the rumours around Toro Rosso being for sale have anything to do with the delayed decision on the 2012 driver line up? My thinking would suggest that this would be logical. Keep the drivers Red Bull wants (Ricciardo & Vergne) and sell the team with ALG and BUE? Hence the rumours around Ricciardo to Caterham.

Interested in your thoughts.



Red Bull’s boss has said clearly that TR isn’t for sale, but that he might sell a stake in it.

Last year they confirmed both drivers early. This year they are taking their time, but they need to get the right drivers in the right places. They might put Ricciardo on for Buemi or maybe stick with Buemi and Alguersuari with Vergne starting out 2012 as 3rd driver (maybe doing some Friday sessions) and Ricciardo at Caterham maybe?


Appreciate the recent articles — thanks, James.

On one hand you can understand brand names being bought and sold. On the other, Team and/or Group Lotus without the substance of the original Lotus heritage seems pretty hollow. All about the money and the ‘marketing’ now, isn’t it? Sure hope that if they are lucky enough to earn another World title that there is some recognition that no real lineage/connection exists.


The rumours haven’t stopped in the City that Genii are looking for funds to do a buyout. I would get them (Group Lotus) now, because if this team performs on the track, then the car side will start to climb in value. On that note, one does wonder, as they have “leaked” a lot of very clever and experience people recently. I am aware that there is movement between the teams, but this seems to be more a one way door.

As for Kim, I would think, if he has an equity deal on the side, it is ratchet to his scoring points and race win’s, and podiums. Smart move on his part. Keep his salary demands realistic, but top load the bonus system, so he gets equity, which if the team heads in the correct direction, then his holdings would increase much faster than a straight cash amount. If there is a merger of the Car group and race team, then he could be sitting on a nice amount. (Good for his pension & partying)

But of course shares go up and down, just as fast either way. F1 drivers are risk takers, so why not some shares in a car company.


James, how do you rate the team’s line up of technical management? Scale 1-10…

With Mercedes looking like a 9, Red Bull like 10, and McLaren and Ferrari like 8.5 – 9 (all on paper). Caterham could be somewhere at 7 to 7.5. Williams should also be seen as 7+ with Coughlan and his team.

Wasn’t it the case that in the past 6 months lots of talent walked away from Enstone?

If Bahar talks to re-talenting the team.. will that not take another year? And how come the team slipped down the ranks from mid-2011 onwards.

These are clearly questions that need addressing when I hear Bahar speaking.


James Allison is very good, so is Alan Permane, but they’re both new to the top jobs.

I think they miss Bob Bell and Pat Symonds, who worked with James and Alan in the championship winning years. They are cunning devils!


Hi James,

Apologies for going slightly off-topic, but I have been getting the impression over the last few months (based largely on headlines, I must be honest) that McLaren have been losing some top technical talent to the other teams. Is this all part of the eb-and-flow of F1, with them having simply hired in other talent in their place, or do you get the impression that they have been losing more knowledgeable folks than they have gained in the last year or two?


Yes, it is part of the ebb and flow. Not alarming at this stage.

Sometimes it comes because they are told that they should look for another job, sometimes they jump at another offer, as I believe John Iley did.


ps. you as expert and insider please feel free to adjust my ratings :-))


Was Joe Saward in attendance…?


Was he invited? /jest

JS wrote a little while ago about “a very select group of F1 journalists in Paris this afternoon” to whom Romain Grojean was prestned 24 hours after the announcement of him joing Ren– Lotus F1 for 2012. (

@ James,

Why is this happenings, why not the bg media kerfuffle that usually occours?

And are their limited readers for blogs in 2012, that’s both blogs I visit regularly commenting on small gorups of media going to Re– Lotus F1.

Is this Lotus F1? or a trend that hasn’t really been mentioned before? or something else?



I did hear a rumor somewhere Kimi wants to own a team??

Is this shares thing a way to do this??


Lotus really sucks. Instead of facing their problems they just keep saying that their pilots are just not good enough. Petrov, Senna, Heidfield are all just slowpokes unable to drive a brilliant car Lotus has build – is that what they really believe? I just can’t understand that. I’ll be really glad to see Lotuses behind HRT and Marussia (although I do respect Kimi a lot and wish him good luck).


I don’t think Eric Boullier is the right man to lead Lotus. They’ve already lost talented staff like Bob Bell and from what I’ve read it’s down to Eric’s management style. They should give somebody with F1 experience and success a call like Dave Richards.

I’m delighted he’s back but I’m still not sure Kimi is the right man to lead the team. Having said that, I can’t think of a significantly better choice on the market. Maybe Senna


This is why I don’t feel the team is going to improve much next year. I think in terms of human resources they are struggling with a lot of turnover and mediocre leadership. Kimi’s overly charismatic personality isn’t going to pull them up.

I will admit that I’m just pessimistic about the team. They are not the “real Lotus” regardless of the spin marketeer Bahar puts on it. Their handling of the name issue has turned many off to the team, including myself.


“They’ve already lost talented staff like Bob Bell and from what I’ve read it’s down to Eric’s management style.”

+1 on this.


“I don’t know. I don’t think so. But who knows?”

What are we meant to read into that statement!

Surely he would know these things, so I suppose that’s a yes then, he does have some sort of equity deal.


At the end of the day, I think many people don’t believe this team will improve – myself included.

I don’t know. I just don’t know. I guess we’ll find out in 2012. These are men who’s only incentive is to profit and grow value of the team. Kimi included with his equity demands. Let’s not forget he “retired” in good part due to money, and he’s back it feels mainly to get more of it. Remember stories of equity demands from Williams not working out.

This Team certainly can’t be discounted. Others above them are doing it mainly for marketing purposes and glory/haritage. It seems to me that this team will do it in hopes of getting rich.


Yes, and I can’t see how Kimi is the driver to help them improve either. Kimi has, on and off, treated his teams and peers really quite poorly during his career outside F1 these last few years, his last season in F1 was a joke – He is not a driver I would select to run one of my cars, unless of course I was looking for a bit of a marketing coup.


Kimi always focus on his job……most of the engineers enjoy working with him~~!! Gosh you guys sounds like you actually worked with Kimi before~~!! And he did not quite due to money…as he stressed before..he want a winning car~~!! He can always earn more in F1, why quit to rally?? Use your common sense for god sake!!


Last season of Kimi in Ferrari… he brought a win for em’ in a donkey-cart… yes… you are right that season was a joke but for Ferrari and not for Kimi mind you 🙂


This sounds like there have been no other cars in this race and Kimi only won cause of Kers.


On that day he was racing a Force India, which was faster and would have passed if it was fitted with KERS, which the Ferrari had.


A Lotus-Renault driver hurting his hand (as I heard it) preseason? Oh my…

Nice to see Boullier learns from his past mistakes.


James, a day spent with Dany Bahar,[mod]

Interesting he did not deny Kimi buying shares rumor.

Eric Boullier’s days with the team will be numbered if Kimi gets a bad car. He will be sacrificed first. Because we all know what happens when Kimi gets a sub par car, he sulks and qualifies badly then to make himself feel better gets fastest lap in it, in the race! Ferrari could not get him to quit doing this the last season he drove for them so why will Lotus? Shame he could not do every lap of the race the same way!

My question is who will help with getting the car dailed in? Because Kimi was never good at that in the past! With very little testing I suggest the team may have a really tough go of it this year!

Contrast that to McLaren with two very strong drivers and the car was developed all through the 2011 season right up to the last race! They made the most of every track mile. Just dont see Kimi doing that based on past performances. If the car is not good he lacks the right motivation!


Many engineers amazed by kimi ‘s feedback on the car which is precise and accurate!!!! 2008 ferrari focus their resource on Massa…..Kimi nvr sulk…but the car wasnt design to suit his driving style!!! In 2009, ferrari car wasnt competitive..he manage a win and 5 podium which is massive as ferrari stop develop the car during mid season!!! !


I wonder how accurate the stories of Kimi not being able to set a car up are. When Massa had his accident and was replaced, first by Badoer than by Fisichella, Kimi out qualified them by a considerable amount. If he is unable to set a car up and relies on the other driver, surely they would have been a lot closer? Certainly with Fisi as he isn’t exactly a slouch.


Jenson has recently commented that Kimi is quite good in car set up according to some Macca guys. Hasn’t he?


I don’t remember anything but praise coming from the McLaren camp about Räikkönen’s technical abilities and understanding.

Similarly, from the technical staff at Ferrari (as opposed to managerial staff) nothing but wonder and amazement.

Bahar has worked with him. I’m sure he’d have steered them to someone else if he’d had doubts about Räikkönen’s technical nous.


Don’t you think that with all this blowing going away in 2012 there is a good chance we may get a surprise? Personally I want Mercedes to be that surprise. Not sure many here would want to watch that German v. German v. German action.

But this Lotus team to me at least has a feeling of fighting for its life desperation. That could make them dangerous.

If they don’t have good results in 2012 it won’t be pretty as you say. They have what seems like all the pieces. Just not well constructed together and question as you say is will it all hold together for them in 2012. I see it as a possible suprise of the season or an ugly thing that will be painful to watch. Either way it will be entertaining – hopefully.


Hi James

Out of interest- if this Lotus wins the championship in 2012, will it be Lotus’ 8th world title, or Lotus Renault’s first? I doubt it will be Renault’s 3rd? How are the journalists looking at this one?




Reminds me of a story my dad likes to tell.

There’s an axe that’s been in the Henley family for 8 generations, handed down proudly from father to son.

How has one axe lasted so long?

Well, it’s had 7 new handles and 3 new heads.


Great question, we discussed this and Bahar said at first he doesn’t want to trade on past histories, but at the same time Lotus has a racing history, so he wasn’t clear on that, except that they won’t trade on Enstone team history.


It all depends IMO whether the whole ‘we are the real lotus’ is a belief or just an attack of Fernandes’ Team Lotus.

If it is the former then I’m guessing they will want to count everything to embelish the history. ALthough they could get a lot more just by calling it Benetton Renault.

The later would also be logical and quite probably allow a wide base to accept them as a team, however the small deeper GL fans would want otherwise.

I hope and think probably the later given that they haven’t even bothered to change the paint to Green and Gold instead trading off the JPS colour scheme that existed decades ago.

I also hope because they are different to Team Lotus. TL were co-existant with the car company, Lotus F1 team (not Team Lotus) is part of the car manafacturer.

Add in the name difference and you have yourself a nice little cocktail of logical thought pertaining to why they should be counted as different. HOWEVER, this is Formula 1 and logic takes a back seat ont the journey if money is involved. And what sells more cars, a wider base or a deeper narrower support from F1.. I’m not sure, and I think it oculd change depending on circumstances if and when it occurs


Benetton won a couple (2 drivers, 1 constructors, if memory serves) after all and the recent Renault team grew out of the team that took Schumacher to his 1994-5 glory (Flavio et al).

How much do teams retain their history, in general (for example, is there still a noticeable Irish contingent in the ex-Jordan Force India team?) Or is the turnover of any team too high for a meaningful culture to remain.

I’ve noticed several Mercedes team members mentioning the tough times as Honda lately, when “promising” future glory, but I also remember Vettel’s “first” win for Red Bull (so Nurburgring 1999 and Herbert-Barrichello’s 1-3 for Stewart didn’t count for them).


“I don’t know. I don’t think so. But who knows?”

We will see tomorrow!!

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