Lotus F1 team today announced a new sponsorship deal with Saxo Bank, the long time cycling sponsor putting its toe in the water of F1 for the first time.
The deal means fresh budget for the team, which the owner Gerard Lopez admitted recently was over €100 million in debt. It also gives some bilateral marketing benefits with the cycling team which competes for top honours in cycling’s blue riband events like the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia.
After Lopez’ interview in Auto Motor und Sport last week in which he admitted the debts but said that the team would be funded for 2014, team principal Eric Boullier told Autosport that his budget for the season had been secured and he has privately told colleagues and fellow team owners that it is “ring fenced”, meaning that it is secured for the year. If this proves over time to be the case it will be a relief to employees and suppliers alike.
After the difficulties of 2013, which saw employees regularly going unpaid and driver Kimi Raikkonen walking out with two races to go due to non-payment of his salary, Boullier is hoping to spend what he has on his team and focus on competing for top results again.
“The team is in good shape now definitely with some guarantees over the operational finance needs,” he told Autosport. “I think now at least for 2014 and a little bit beyond, the team now can stabilize. We can bring a little bit of quietness, so not being as intense but still performing.”
Lotus will miss the first test in Jerez next week, but will be present at both the Bahrain tests. Although the team began work early on the 2014 hybrid turbo car, it also pushed hard in the closing stages of the 2013 season, securing a sequence of podium finishes in the final races – like the second place in Austin (pictured above), which have clearly added a few weeks to the development time for the 2014 chassis, along with the financial uncertainties.
* Meanwhile Caterham is set to reveal its drivers at a preseason launch event in Leafield tomorrow. After that the first of the car launches takes place with McLaren revealing its challenger online on Friday, Ferrari launching its car on Saturday in Maranello, then Sauber on Sunday. Toro Rosso, Mercedes and Red Bull will all be revealed next week ahead of the first F1 test of the hybrid turbo era at Jerez from 28-31 January.