Team Lotus has confirmed that Steve Nielsen will be joining the Hingham squad as sporting director from next month.
The former Renault
man replaces Dieter Gass, who is moving on after playing an integral role in helping Team Lotus establish itself as a viable contender for long-term success in F1 in its first two years, and is one of the most respected individuals in the sport, having worked his way up through the ranks in a number of teams including Team Lotus, Tyrrell, Benetton and Arrows. In 2000, he rejoined Benetton as sporting manager and led the race team through to its current incarnation as Renault.
“It is excellent news for the team that Steve has accepted the offer to join us as sporting director, [but] we are obviously sorry to say goodbye at the end of the season to Dieter Gass, who was instrumental in helping us put our first car on the grid in 2010 and for bringing the team to such a high level in record time," chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne commented, "He is returning to Germany and he goes with our thanks and with our wishes for every success in the future for him and his young family.
“I have worked with [Nielsen] extensively in the past at both Tyrrell and Renault, where we played our parts in helping to build championship-winning teams, which is what we are aiming to do with Team Lotus. I am sure he will integrate very quickly into our operation and will be made very welcome by everyone in Hingham and Malaysia."
Team principal Tony Fernandes revealed that Nielsen had been approached during Team Lotus' debut in the top flight last season, and was excited to have finally secured his services.
“I first met Steve in Singapore 2010 and offered him a job then, which he turned down, so I am delighted he has finally taken up the chance to join us," the Malaysian said, "It is a good mark of our team that we can attract people of Steve's calibre and I am thrilled that someone who is so well respected, and is coming from a team that is ahead of us in so many ways, shares our belief in our ability to grow and, in due course, challenge the midfield."
Gascoyne also confirmed that Team Lotus has extended its relationship with current team manager Graham Watson.
"We have also had some more very good news with the confirmation that Graham Watson has signed a new contract after having played a vital role in the factory and the race team since the early days of Team Lotus," he noted, "This gives us a trackside team with experience, vision and strength in depth and I am sure both Steve and Graham will help us keep pushing forward as we make our challenge for long-term honours.”