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which Proton-owned Group Lotus insists Tony Fernandes' 1Malaysia Racing outfit no longer has any right to use since it rescinded his licence last year as Bahar ramped up its own F1 plans.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.”