Just a couple of days after revealing that it had reached an agreement to use one of F1 rival Williams' two windtunnels, Team Lotus has announced that it will be carrying General Electric branding from round nine of the 2011 season.
The deal, which was confirmed during an interview with team boss Tony Fernandes on CNN International
, sees GE join the Anglo-Malaysian team as a 'premium partner' with branding appearing on both T128 cars and across the team's entire race and factory structure from next month's British Grand Prix. The partnership is expected to provide extensive brand and business benefits to both parties, with GE gaining a high-profile global platform to showcase its advanced technologies and Team Lotus acquiring leading edge technological, R&D and manufacturing resources that it hopes will help accelerate progress on and off track.
"GE was there at the beginning of my AirAsia adventure, where we just had two planes, and now we're up to a hundred," Fernandes confirmed, "They see a lot of potential in what we're doing - F1 and the motoring world - so it's a big, big day for us, after 19 months, to land a huge sponsor and a big name like General Electric. We're very excited about it."
Fernandes was particularly excited by the opportunities the deal may present in America, where F1 returns to race next season. Team Lotus also has the only American driver with an F1 superlicence, World Series by Renault
frontrunner Alexander Rossi, on its books as part of a driver development scheme, and has already attracted attention from other US-based brands.
"I think, without a doubt, it's a huge market for us and the fact that we also have Dell and Rossi with us, somehow we've become more American - and the timing is perfect with Austin around the corner," he conceded, "For my other businesses, AirAsia, America's a key market, but I think, for F1, it's critical that we make America work this time and it's great that we managed to bring in two big American corporations into F1."
Of more immediate interest to Team Lotus, however, will be the input GE can bring to the design and build of its first KERS system. The team is one of the few running without the 'power boost' technology since it was re-admitted to F1 this season, and Fernandes admits that it needs to be on a par with the rest of the midfield runners if it is to live up to claims of improvement.
"Without a doubt," he noted, "Definitely, next year, we will have KERS and probably a lot more things, even down to non-destructive testing we've been discussing with GE. So it's a big plus, not only financially, but technologically it's a big boost for Team Lotus.
"We'd 100 per cent like to replicate [what Red Bull
has done]. The great thing, five years ago, Red Bull
was in the position that we were in. In fact, they had a little bit of a head-start because they bought an existing factory from Stewart, so they had quite a big head-start, but they were at the back and, five years later, they're world champions.
"We're very encouraged by it. You know, in 18 months, we've built a factory from nothing. We put the car out in Bahrain after only eight months. And qualifying for us [in Canada] was a fantastic qualification. We're getting closer and closer to midfield. But Red Bull
has raised a lot of excitement and there's a lot of hope for new teams such as us."