Tony Fernandes is confident that the 'second generation' Lotus F1 team will be a success - and while he doesn't expect 2010 to be easy, he reckons the Lotus brand has the potential to really re-capture the imagination of F1 fans worldwide.
Lotus will be one of four new entries on the starting grid next year - alongside Virgin Racing (formerly Manor Grand Prix), USF1 and Campos Meta 1 - and Fernandes is excited about the prospects for the sport.
Indeed despite the loss of BMW
in recent months, he added that F1 will continue to prosper.
"Number one (the decision to enter F1 is because), it's a business. It's an opportunity. When there is a change, a big change in the business, entrepreneurs such as myself will seize an opportunity," he explained to 422race.com
. "I started an airline three days after 9/11. Many people thought I was on some very good drugs when I did that. I think many people are now saying the same thing.
"But we entrepreneurs, we smell opportunities. And F1 is not going to change whether BMW
is there or not (or Toyota
or Honda etc, etc). Ferrari
is still a great manufacturer, Mercedes-Benz has come in and it has a great name.
"But even if there were no manufacturers, I'd still think that F1 is there, because fundamentally do people come to watch BMW
or Toyota? They come to watch the races, the drivers, the whole atmosphere, and to support teams. I don't think the manufacturers will make such a big difference, they come and go.
"I smell an opportunity and I think Lotus is a fantastic brand. Take Ferrari
aside, there is probably no team that has that kind of emotion. BMW, Toyota
don't create that same emotion as Lotus. And that's what we are trying to bring back into the sport and capitalise on.
"I've been well trained. In the music business I had to deal with wonderful artists and it was high pressure to bring a new one into a very competitive world. I had high pressure starting an airline, to justify the business model. So the pressure is something that is reflected in my grey hair. We deal with it. But, yeah, I mean, nothing ventured, nothing gained.
"I think it's also good, and I go back to the opportunity, that we have a much better advantage now, because the teams are more even, we have to build a new car, with a larger fuel tank. It is a good time to come in and to try and make Lotus competitive. We are not going to be competitive next year. Maybe, who knows, but I don't think so. But it's a good basis to start on. Lotus left at the bottom, so there is only one way for us. Either stay at the bottom or go up."
Currently Fernandes' outfit, known in Malaysia as '1Malaysia F1 Team', uses the 'Lotus F1 Racing' name under license by Proton, which acquired the British sportscar firm in the early 1990s.