Team Lotus boss Tony Fernandes has said that he is 'very, very happy' with the outcome of the first day of legal proceedings in the drawn-out naming row with Proton-owned Group Lotus, even though nothing of note was decided.
The Malaysian insisted that 'the good do always eventually win' after being told that a resolution would be reached before the F1 season gets into full swing, having previously faced the prospect of having to wait almost until its conclusion to get the unwanted distraction out of the way. High Court judge Justice Peter Smith announced on Monday [24 January] that the matter would be brought to a head on 21 March, although he urged both sides to try to and find an amicable solution well before then.
The two sides - who are on course to both field Lotus-Renaults in the 2011 F1 campaign - appeared at the High Court in London as Group Lotus' new CEO Dany Bahar sought a summary judgement against Fernandes' Team Lotus in an effort to prevent the case from going to full trial, but that request was rejected by the judge, who also decreed that allowing the situation - which looks likely to cast an embarrassing shadow over F1 until resolved - to rumble on until November would be pointless and potentially damaging. The subsequently-agreed March date comes between the season-opening Bahrain GP and round two of the season in Australia.
"Very very happy over the judgment today," Fernandes wrote on his Twitter
feed, "And extremely happy that full trial brought forward to 21 March.The good do always eventually win."
The Malaysian, who brought the Lotus name back to F1 in 2010 as one of three expansion teams added to the grid alongside Virgin Racing and HRT, had hoped to run as Lotus Racing for at least five years, the length of the licence granted by Proton-owned Group Lotus. However, after a solid campaign, he was angered by the latter's decision to rescind the licence in order to itself enter the top flight, agreeing a tie-up with the Renault F1 team, which will now run as Lotus Renault from 2011.
Fernandes contends that Group Lotus illegally terminated the branding licence granted to his 1Malaysia Racing Team operation, but faces an additional showdown with the Malaysian manufacturer after snapping up the Team Lotus name - under which the original Lotus team ran - from businessman David Hunt, the younger brother of 1976 world champion James, who acquired the rights to use it before the team's demise in 1994. Proton, meanwhile, argues that the rights were never Hunt's to sell in the first place, despite the Englishman claiming that he had previously offered them to the Malaysians.
"Today's case is Group [Lotus'] desperate attempt to use their one-way unlawful termination of license agreement of Lotus Racing," Fernandes claimed in a separate post, "Saying One Malaysia can't use Lotus. Part of post-termination clauses. So nothing changes on Team Lotus."
He also accepted that the on-going row was not exactly clear for many fans, with both sides having sought legal proceedings for different reasons.
"Many confused about case today," he continued, "It's not about Team Lotus name, who owns it, which is in November. We brought that case to prove once and for all."