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Fernandes: I won't drag Lotus brand through the gutter

As a sponsorship agreement between Group Lotus and Renault appears imminent, Lotus Racing team principal Tony Fernandes assures that he won't risk 'destroying' one of the most iconic brands in motoring history in his naming row with Proton
Whilst stressing his conviction that 'if we go to court, we will win', Tony Fernandes has promised that whatever happens in the ongoing naming wrangle between Lotus Racing, Proton and Renault in F1, he will not 'be involved in destroying the Lotus name' and will not drag one of the most iconic brands in automotive history 'through the gutter'.

For weeks now, there has been a very public row between Fernandes – founder and team principal of Lotus Racing, the best of the F1 2010 newcomers – and state-funded Malaysian manufacturer Proton, which owns Group Lotus and licensed the legendary name to the AirAsia founder this year.

The dispute arose after Fernandes announced his intention to bring the much-loved 'Team Lotus' moniker back into F1 from 2011, having bought the rights to the trademark from David Hunt, brother of the late 1976 world champion James Hunt – yet Proton contends that coming under the Group Lotus umbrella, the rights were never Hunt's to sell, but rather their own. Cue the revocation of Fernandes' licence to the Lotus name, and the current legal stand-off.

To muddy the waters further, it soon became apparent that the key reason behind Proton's opposition to Fernandes' plans was that, having witnessed the blaze of positive international publicity that the bold Lotus Racing endeavour has brought to Malaysia, it is keen to jump on the bandwagon with designs on an F1 involvement of its own.

French newspaper Le Figaro predicts an imminent confirmation that the car maker is to purchase the remaining 25 per cent stake in the financially-struggling Renault F1 operation that is now owned in major part by Gérard Lopez's Genii Capital company, which interestingly has long-standing links outside of the sport with the Lotus Group.

That would leave the French manufacturer as purely an engine-supplier to a team that would likely be rebranded Lotus-Renault, as well as to reigning double world champions Red Bull Racing and Fernandes' squad.

It has been hinted that a deal could be announced today (Wednesday) that would see Group Lotus become the Enstone-based outfit's title sponsor in a €30 million-a-year agreement stretching over five seasons, ostensibly to be funded by the Malaysian taxpayer.

Renault President and CEO Carlos Ghosn has conceded only that 'we'll be there next year and in future seasons', although in what capacity remains unclear – and pointedly, the Brazilian did not rule out a name change for the team – whilst Lopez told Reuters: “We are interested in Lotus as a car company. Is there something with the team to be done? We'll see.”

To add further intrigue, Lotus Racing concluded a deal last month to use Renault engines in 2011 and 2012 – and F1 clearly isn't big enough for two different Lotus-Renault teams in the field. Complicated, isn't it? And if that alone isn't enough, both Lotus Racing and Group Lotus will be represented in the feeder GP2 Series next year, the former running under the AirAsia banner and the latter in partnership with the ultra-successful ART Grand Prix, with the joint project to be known as Lotus-ART.

Related Pictures

Click on relevant pic to enlarge
31.01.2010 Valencia, Spain Gerard Lopez (FRA) Genii Capital, Renault F1 Team - Renault F1 Team Launch
Saturday Practice, Vitaly Petrov (RUS), Renault F1 Team, R30
Saturday Practice, Jarno Trulli (ITA), Lotus Racing, T127
Friday Practice 2, Jarno Trulli (ITA), Lotus Racing, T127
Friday Practice 1, Heikki Kovalainen (FIN), Lotus Racing, T127
Tony Fernandes (MAL) Lotus Racing
Friday Practice 1, Tony Fernandes, Team Principal, Lotus Racing
Sebastien Ogier, Red Bull, RB7, F1 test [Credit: Red Bull Content Pool]
Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB13
Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB13
Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB13
Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB13
Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB13
Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB13
Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB13
Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB13
Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB13
Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB13

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JohnnyGP - Unregistered

November 17, 2010 4:02 PM

Sokudo is right. Decades ago Lotus founder Colin Chapman split Lotus into 2 seperate companies, Group Lotus (road cars) and Team Lotus (Racing). They were different entities altogether. It's quite simple really, Fernandez has bought the rights to Team Lotus. Proton have the rights to Group Lotus. Therefore Proton are wrong to suggest that Fernandez cannot use the name "Team Lotus", as it's nothing to do with them.

sokudo - Unregistered

November 17, 2010 3:40 PM

as far as i'm concerned fernandes has every right to use the 'team lotus' name. he bought the rights from david hunt. proton may well own lotus cars, but they just want the lotus name for publicity so it'll help them when they want into f1 with renault. the late great colin chapman though seperated the f1 team 'team lotus' and the car manufacturer and it seems there are 2 different owners. fact is, fernandes has the right to use 'team lotus' as a name but proton can use 'lotus' as a name. therefore, it looks like we'll have 4 lotus renaults on the grid with 2 different haha. i hope fernandes fights to the bitter end because he is effectively sticking up for the great lotus brand in this situation

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