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Bahar extends his Lotus contract and talks Raikkonen, takeovers and pay drivers
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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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1

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.

2

I don’t think so.

3

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.

4

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?

5

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

6

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

7

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!

8

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’

Paul

9

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” ?

10

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?

11

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.

12

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

13

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.

14

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 🙂

15

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.

16

Was the big bear in attendance?

17

Who?

18

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.

19

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

20

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.

21

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

22

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.

23

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.

24

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…

25

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….

26

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

27

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~~~

28

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

29

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?

30

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???

31

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.

32

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

33

Thanks, we’ll think about that

34

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.

35

I thought the engine changes will happen from 2014…

36

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

37

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

38

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

39

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?

40

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.

41

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

42

JA,

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.

Dave

43

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?

44

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.

45

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.

46

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.

47

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!

48

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?

49

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.

50

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

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