Lotus F1 team CEO Matthew Carter has confirmed that when the deal is finalised for the takeover of the Enstone based team for next season, it will no longer be called Lotus, but will become Renault.
The deal, which has been pending for some weeks now, is due to be finalised imminently, but speaking to the official F1 site, Carter confirmed that suggestions that the team may continue under the Lotus banner for 2016 were wide of the mark,
“If the deal with Renault goes through, then yes. Then the team will not be called Lotus – then the name will fall out of Formula One. Right now we have a license to use the name Lotus – and that license will be terminated. So someone else could go for that name!”
The “if” at the start of that sentence is interesting, as there are various stories out there at the moment about the state of readiness of this transaction. French sources insist that Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn has not yet signed off, but other sources suggest that it should be finalised in time to be announced at the end of the month. Carter’s intervention today on the official F1 site is interesting in terms of timing.
What is clear is that Gerard Lopez, Eric Lux and minority shareholder Andrew Ruhan will be selling the team to Renault, but maintaining a minority shareholding, with Renault taking a controlling interest. This was confirmed in the letter of intent signed and announced last month.
Beyond that, the hold up is clearly over money. It seems likely to be entwined in the ongoing saga over Red Bull engine supply, as F1 commercial boss Bernie Ecclestone has some wriggle room on the prize money he pays to Renault for its historic involvement in the sport and there has been some exploration there. Red Bull seem very negative on the idea of a continuation with its long time French supplier, but there were suggestions in Austin and Mexico that one avenue being explored was for Red Bull to develop its own hybrid system to sit on top of a Renault Internal Combustion Engine, but without the unit being badged as a Renault.
Carter says that his team has been working on two chassis designs for 2016, “We have two options for an engine next year: either we go with Mercedes or Renault. We are progressing along that route. We’ve got two designs for next year’s car and we are pushing forward with both options.
“But that is a rather unlikely option that we will go into the 2016 season with a Mercedes engine. And if we were to, yes, that would mean that the Renault deal felt flat. But my strong guess is that it will be a Renault engine next year.”
Lotus’ supply of Mercedes engines has already been allocated to Manor for next season, so the manufacturer would have to work some logistical miracles to supply a fifth team in the time scale.
Carter’s colleague Federico Gastaldi has confirmed separately that Renault personnel are now back in the Enstone factory, working. Carter admitted that with all the upheaval at the team, 2016 is likely to be a fairly uncompetitive season, “The team that we’ve got in Enstone is brilliant. They have worked this year on a very small budget – and we’ve still managed to get a podium. We are a great team.
“We are trying to build a lot of the car in-house. We build our own gearbox, our own rear-end suspension in-house. A team like Force India uses the Mercedes engine and the Mercedes gearbox and rear-end suspension. We build all that by ourselves, so going from a Renault engine to a Mercedes engine was a huge step – but we did it and we are reasonably successful this season. So doing the job backwards, in the opposite direction: yes, we’ve done it before and, yes, we can do it (again). It will be tight because of the timing, but I think everything will be fine for the first test.
“I agree that next year will be difficult with the settling down of the new structure of the team. 2017 will see massive rule changes, so that could also mean a huge chance. We are already designing the car for 2017. So I think in 2017 we should be reasonably successful.”
Former Renault F1 boss Bob Bell is back in the fold at Enstone, ready to become the technical boss, while ART GP boss Frederic Vasseur is tipped for the team principal’s role alongside him, but nothing has been confirmed.