Riad Asmat, the chief executive of Team Lotus, says the second-year team is 'under pressure' to score points in 2011 as the Anglo/Malaysian outfit prepares for the start of its legal battle with Group Lotus over the use of its name.

The bitter political dispute between Team Lotus and Group Lotus will head to the High Court in London on 24 January, after Group Lotus applied for a summary judgement only days after CEO Dany Bahar - who is eager to use motor racing as a key advertising tool for his ultra-ambitious plans for Lotus' road car division - hinted that he was keen to resolve the issue outside of court.

Should the summary judgement be dismissed, the case is expected to re-appear in court during the autumn, leaving two Renault-powered Lotus entries on the F1 2011 starting grid - and the longer that situation persists, the more embarrassing for the sport the whole episode is likely to become.

The main issue is the argument over the Team Lotus name, which Proton-owned Group Lotus insists Tony Fernandes' 1Malaysia Racing outfit no longer has any right to use since it rescinded his licence last year as Bahar ramped up its own F1 plans.

"I don't think it will be a matter solved by English courts," Bahar told the BBC. "I think it will be solved before that, but if we have to go the legal way, we will - and our shareholders will support that.

"When I arrived [at Group Lotus] with a new management team, we had our own ideas and plans and that's nobody's fault, not the shareholders' and not Mr Fernandes' fault. We have a crystal-clear vision of where we want to go in future.

"In this industry, you have a choice. You can use conventional marketing methods, by investing in classical advertising channels like TV and print or - and this is what I prefer - you could invest in activities that reflect your products, in our case motor racing. This way, customers can experience the technologies that we develop in racing.

"I think with any business relationship, you start on good terms and if it turns out to be beneficial for both parties, you continue. If not, you just stop; it's like in a marriage, and this one (with Fernandes) turned out to be an unsuccessful relationship. We offered many things, but it doesn't always turn out positively."

"We build cars and we are shareholders of Renault F1, so we have the right to put our name on the team," concurred Group Lotus sporting director Claudio Berro, speaking to Italiaracing. "Fernandes does not, because we have revoked his licence."

Fernandes has conversely accused Bahar of resorting to 'bully-boy tactics' in the damaging row and has belittled Group Lotus' link-up with Renault as a 'branding disaster', but Asmat insists that the team previously known as Lotus Racing is simply focussing on the job at-hand as shareholders raise expectations for the season ahead.

"We know we are Team Lotus, so it's really not an issue for us," the former Proton man told the BBC, adding that he has had no communication with Group Lotus recently. "It is what it is. We have a five-year plan. It's unfortunate that they (Group Lotus) decided to go their own way for reasons which to me are trivial. They get free publicity, but we know who we are. It is about the culture of the team. That's what we've taken out of last year.

"It is feasible for there to be two Lotus teams in F1 this season. I see no harm in that, and we'll see how it develops as the season goes on. It looks like the court case will not be before the third quarter of the year anyway. I don't know if ultimately there will only be one Lotus in F1. We are Team Lotus, we're entered with the FIA as Team Lotus and we will race as Team Lotus.

"When we started the programme with Tony [Fernandes] and Mike Gascoyne, the target was to be up at the front in five years' time and we won't change that by virtue of someone else being there, because if we push ourselves too much we will over-commit, and that's not good business.

"At the Valencia test, I hope we show what we are made of. We need to get points this year. My head is on the block with the shareholders. They own planes, so if I don't deliver I'll be flown back to Kuala Lumpur! We know where we need to be - and that's running with Toro Rosso and Sauber."

Chief technical officer Gascoyne, meanwhile, added that the team hoped to be in a position to challenge its Lotus Renault GP rival by the end of the campaign and said the big difference with the other Lotus operation is that 'we are a constructor, not a sponsor'.

"We have to step up into the midfield and be racing Toro Rosso, Sauber, Force India, Williams even," the Englishman affirmed, echoing Asmat's conviction that the advent of Renault engines and Red Bull gearbox and hydraulics technology in 2011 could drive the best of the F1 2010 newcomers forward by as much as one-and-a-half to two seconds a lap.

"I'm very confident about our development and where we're going from an engineering perspective. This year's car is a much more contemporary design. The car really will be a midfield runner. It's a modern F1 car.

"Certainly by the end of the year we want to be beating a team like Renault, and I think we can be doing that. It's very clear; there are two Lotus cars on the grid, which are entered by Team Lotus, and two Renaults, which are entered by the Renault constructor. Lotus have chosen to sponsor them for whatever reason."

Comments

Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment