Tony Fernandes has admitted that he is 'delighted' after the news the F1 paddock had been awaiting and expecting for some time was finally confirmed on the eve of this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos, with Renault at last blowing the cover on one of the season's worst-kept secrets and announcing that Lotus will be powered by its engines in 2011 and 2012.
On the same day as Renault extended its relationship with current pace-setters Red Bull Racing into a further two campaigns [see separate story – click here
], the French manufacturer similarly made public its deal with F1 2010 newcomer Lotus – although interestingly amidst Fernandes' ongoing naming row with Proton over the 'Team Lotus' rights, the Anglo/Malaysian outfit's press release on the matter made no mention of the iconic Lotus moniker, whilst Renault's statement refers to the squad simply as 1Malaysia Racing Team (UK) Ltd.
Either way, having already established itself as the most competitive and successful of the sport's three new entrants this year, an 'ambitious' Lotus – or whatever it will henceforth be called – has clear designs on working its way up the grand prix grid as swiftly as possible. With deals now in-place with Renault regarding engines and Red Bull for gearboxes and hydraulic systems, team principal Fernandes acknowledges that the Norfolk-based operation is very serious indeed about its long-term aspirations.
“I am absolutely delighted that we can now officially talk about the partnership with Renault,” enthused the AirAsia founder. “There has obviously been a great deal of speculation about which engine will be powering our cars from 2011, and now the announcement has been made I think everyone can see just how ambitious we really are. The combination of the Renault engine and the Red Bull Technology gearbox and hydraulics gives our design and aero teams a successful, tried-and-tested platform to work with for next year's car.
“2010 has been all about building up our team from scratch, and in just one year we have laid the foundations for many exciting seasons to come. The partnership with Renault will dramatically accelerate our development plans, both on and off-track. That is an important point – we have started a partnership with Renault and, much like taking on experienced drivers in our first year, we will be working with people who know how to win and who will help push us even further forward towards the front of the grid.
“We are realistic – we know what needs to be done to be challenging for ultimate honours in F1 – and this partnership will play a very important role in helping us push ahead.”
Fernandes' sentiments are shared by Lotus chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne and CEO Riad Asmat, with a tangible air of excitement and anticipation inside the team about what might lie ahead.
“Today's announcement is the latest confirmation of how far this team wants to go in F1,” underlined Gascoyne. “Having worked with Renault before, I know exactly what they will bring to our team and I am delighted that they will be playing an integral role in the next chapter of our story.
“The engine itself gives our designers, engineers and drivers an excellent platform to work with – it is very drivable, has good reliability and comes with a track support team who have a wealth of experience and knowledge. We are all looking forward to working with Renault, and are very excited about the future for our partnership and our team.”
“This is a very big day for everyone in our team, in Malaysia and in the UK,” concurred Asmat. “Just over a year ago there were four people in an empty factory, and now we have announced an engine partnership with Renault – one of the most successful manufacturers in our sport's history – a gearbox and hydraulics deal with Red Bull Technology and the start of the process of building our own wind tunnel at the factory in Hingham. We have come such a long way in a very short period, and today's announcement will give the whole team even more enthusiasm for the challenges that lay ahead.”