15 February 2010
Development programme vital for Lotus
Lotus F1 boss Tony Fernandes is keen to foster relations with development teams as the famous marque makes its grand prix return, but insists that he has no plans to branch out as a car builder.
Lotus F1 team principal Tony Fernandes has admitted that it is unlikely that fans will see the famous marque returning to any other category as a constructor, although he is not above 'lending' the name to select partners for use on the lower rungs of the ladder.
Speaking at the unveiling of the first Lotus F1 entry since 1994 in London recently, Fernandes confirmed that he was keen to foster a solid development programme to help feed talent into the grand prix operation in future years, but admitted that he could not see Lotus becoming an all-encompassing manufacturer of race machinery as it had been under the guidance of founder Colin Chapman.
The team's Malaysian links have already seen it spread its umbrella to rebrand test driver Fairuz Fauzy's World Series by Renault operation Mofaz Racing as Lotus F1 Racing Junior Team, with a carry-over of the famous green-and-yellow livery revealed during the F1 team's shakedown at Silverstone last week. There will also be support for the Litespeed F3 team that first gave rise to a possible Lotus return in the top flight, with Nino Judge's equipe acting as a talent scouting and development pool.
"I don't think [we'll see Lotus return to F3 as a constructor]," Fernandes told journalists, "but we have two or three developmental teams and it shows, again, our seriousness about this that we had put money behind Fairuz in the Renault series and that we will assist Litespeed as well.
"Both of those teams will be development teams for us, so it shows you that we are taking this as a long-term project. We have put a substantial budget behind this as it is very important to not only develop future drivers, but to develop engineers and know-how.
"From my experience at Air Asia, one of the first things I did when we made some money, was to build an academy where we trained our own pilots and our own engineers - we invested a lot of money. Similarly, when I looked at [taking over] West Ham [football club], the thing I liked about them most was the academy, so we are putting a lot of effort into the development side of the team."
Fostering a happy and well-planned team is clearly something that Fernandes has high on his priority list, and he admits that he is happy being a hands-off team principal if there are other better suited to making decisions.
"I'm looking at the car and I can't see whether it's a good or bad car - that's my not my expertise," he admitted, casting an eye over the T127, "[My strength] is in bringing in a group of people and giving them the right environment to work in. I think that is one of the things that [chief technical officer] Mike [Gascoyne] has said, and the team have said - that they are enjoying being back in F1.
"Sometimes, when you work in a corporate environment and everything is bureaucratic, you don't the best out of people. My ability is being able to bring a group of people together and to give them the right environment to do their best, the power of giving someone the ability to perform. And then get Mike the best drivers...."
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