The reborn Lotus F1 team has continued its raft of appointments as it gears up to return to the top flight in 2010, adding a new chief executive officer to the recently unveiling of former Ferrari man Claudio Berro as director of motorsport.
Malaysian Riad Asmat was revealed as CEO during a press conference at the team's soon-to-be-home at Sepang earlier today [Friday], stepping up from his current role as general manager and tacit head of motorsport at state-owned Proton Holdings Berhard, which owns the Lotus brand. He also managed the company's involvement with Team Malaysia in the A1GP Series.
"Riad's expertise, which is a good blend of both corporate experience and motorsports knowledge, will provide the dynamic and success-oriented leadership that the Malaysian team requires," team principal Tony Fernandes told reporters, "I'm confident that his knowledge of motorsports coupled with vast experience will contribute to the success of the 1Malaysia F1 Team.
"I had an online conference the other day where I found that 89 per cent of respondents stated that they wanted to work for the 1Malaysia F1 team - and I thought that was encouraging, but then I found that 48 per cent actually thought this team has the chance to become world champion!"
The Malaysian-backed team, which was officially launched last month, was selected to fill the spot on the grid created by uncertainty over the future of BMW Sauber, and has been pressing on with the design and development of its first car, which it hopes will be ready to hit the track in February 2010.
"F1 is very competitive and it operates in an extremely challenging environment," the 38-year old commented, "In this respect, the focus will be on teamwork and its importance can never be overstressed.
"All of us in the 1Malaysia Formula One Team understand that this is a very important first step for the nation. We will make it our key objective to build a very strong and robust foundation moving forward."
Asmat's appointment was complemented by the announcement of a new chief operating officer, who will oversee the technical organisation in Britain and report directly to chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne. Keith Saunt previously worked with Team Lotus International, Benetton, Renault and leaves his position as COO at Red Bull Technology - the company supplying both Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso - to join the Lotus operation.
While revealing that the design and build programme was running ahead of schedule, however, Fernandes refused to be drawn on the identity of a driver, despite rumours of a partnership between F1 veteran Jarno Trulli and Malaysian Fairuz Fauzy.
"We know what we want, and we know who
we want as the driver," he admitted, "We've been watching him for some time now and we will get our driver soon. Things will be clearer at the end of November."