Having seemingly struck a deal to run Renault engines in its second season of top flight competition in 2011, F1 2010 newcomer Lotus Racing is also on the verge of reviving the classic Team Lotus name – but whilst it might be all-change in some respects, on the driver front it appears the status quo
Following weeks of speculation, Cosworth officially confirmed over the weekend of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza that it is to end its collaboration with Lotus following just a single year of working together [see separate story – click here
], with the widely-held belief being that this is so the ambitious Anglo/Malaysian outfit can switch to Renault power for 2011, a clear signal of the team's intent to move forwards in as short a timeframe as possible.
The reputed two-year agreement will likely broadly mirror that between Force India F1 and Mercedes-Benz, whereby Renault will supply Lotus not only with engines but indeed a full drivetrain – gearbox and KERS – package, which would theoretically provide a significant boost on both the performance and reliability fronts, given that a large proportion of the team's retirements this year have been gearbox-related.
It is also worth noting that FIF1's deal with Mercedes played a pivotal role in helping to vault the erstwhile perennial tailenders up the pecking order to the extent that the Silverstone-based squad was even able to set pole position and challenge for victory in the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps in 2009, before settling into a solid midfield position in 2010.
Should the Renault tie-up indeed materialise, it will mark the first time since 1986 that the French manufacturer and Lotus have partnered one another – and the iconic Team Lotus name that graced the grand prix grid from 1958 until 1994 similarly looks set to be resurrected, with Lotus Racing founder and team principal Tony Fernandes reportedly having purchased the rights to use the name and its logo featuring Colin Chapman's initials from David Hunt, brother of 1976 F1 World Champion James Hunt and the man who acquired them when the original incarnation collapsed 16 years ago.
In its heyday, Team Lotus claimed no fewer than six drivers' world championship crowns, seven constructors' titles and 73 grand prix victories, with its strong racing pedigree reinforced by its association with F1 legends of the likes of Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Sir Stirling Moss, Emerson Fittipaldi, Mario Andretti, Nigel Mansell, Ayrton Senna and Nelson Piquet amongst many others.
Other sources claim that Fernandes is set to lose the current Lotus Racing name that he owns under licence from Norfolk-based Lotus Cars, due to the famous and historic British sportscar-maker being uncomfortable about the ongoing, damaging Force India/Aerolab legal action against the team for having allegedly stolen intellectual property, and at the same time wishing to prioritise the use of its name in its American motorsport activities instead.
“The future of Team Lotus, Lotus Racing, is in our hands,” Fernandes – who established the team in company with chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne this time last year – told the BBC
With Italian veteran Jarno Trulli deemed all-but certain to remain on-board into 2011, the AirAsia entrepreneur also hinted that Heikki Kovalainen will similarly stay put, despite the Finn – who has impressed many with his attitude, commitment and performances after stepping down from a title-challenging environment at McLaren-Mercedes last year to a start-up, back-of-the-grid struggle at Lotus this year – having been loosely linked with a return to former employer Renault.
“Heikki's the kind of person we love at Lotus – tons of energy and always positive,” Fernandes admitted. “I hope we have a long, long career together, and that we can deliver to him the type of package that can really get him where he should be.”
“I know what team I will be with next season, but you'll have to wait a few days before I can say,” the 28-year-old told Finnish newspaper Turun Sanomat