Admitting that he is perplexed by the bitter ongoing dispute between Team Lotus and Group Lotus in F1, Martin Brundle has suggested that heritage and history don't necessarily translate into on-track results – and that people can 'get a bit too hung-up on a name'.
With the case due to appear before London's High Court on Monday (24 January) after Group Lotus sought a summary judgement in a bid to prevent the matter from running on into the summer, Brundle has offered his insight into a very public and hugely embarrassing row that at present looks set to leave four Renault-powered Lotus cars on the starting grid for the Bahrain Grand Prix curtain-raiser in mid-March. Somewhere or other, one side will have to back down – but thus far, neither shows any intention of being willing to do so.
“It's confusing, really,” reflected the BBC F1
commentator and former McLaren, Benetton, Ligier and Jordan star, speaking at the annual pre-season Autosport International show. “I've read up on it copiously, I've spoken to the people, I've tried to understand the politics, the money, the egos – all the things that are involved in the situation.
“I think Tony Fernandes and Mike Gascoyne and the Lotus team did a great job [in 2010]. I personally am very supportive of new teams in F1 – we don't want four or five top teams running four cars [each]. Mark Webber, Fernando Alonso, we found them in a Minardi; Michael Schumacher started in a Jordan when it wasn't a top team; Ayrton Senna started in a Toleman in 1984. We need this interest level in F1 of the fresh teams, so I was delighted to see Virgin Racing and Lotus on the grid – though the HRT thing confuses me a little bit, if I'm honest.
“Now we've got this squabble; we've got the black Lotus Renault and we're going to have the green-and-yellow Lotus, but for me, the car company have the high ground – especially now they've got the Chapman family supporting them, and other people like Nigel Mansell, a Lotus stalwart – and I don't understand why Lotus at Hingham are promoting somebody else's brand. I'll see what's there at the first race when we walk up-and-down the paddock on the Thursday, but black Lotus, green Lotus, it's just going to confuse everybody.”
That much seems a given, but the 51-year-old did express some sympathy with Fernandes, who has accused Group Lotus CEO Dany Bahar of resorting to 'bully-boy tactics' in the stand-off and who has now suffered the indignity of Clive Chapman – who supported his team throughout 2010 – switching allegiance and deserting him. Sometimes, however, Brundle hints, you just have to let go.
“I would imagine he (Fernandes) is very disappointed,” he mused. “He went into that with a passion for a brand. Should I start a team up and just call it Brabham or Tyrrell, though – does that mean that I've got something special, that I've got a brand there? A very good example to underline this point is that Red Bull have no heritage or history in F1, but they're the double reigning world champions. I think people get a bit too hung-up on a name like that.”