Lotus' position in F1 continues to provide a mix of confusion and amusement, according to which side of the fence one is sitting, following news that Lotus F1 has dumped Group Lotus (or is it vice versa?).
Having finally wrested sole control of the Lotus name for use in F1 after a protracted battle with what is now the Caterham team, Lotus F1 became just one recipient of the famous black-and-gold colours as Group Lotus spread its wings far and wide across the world of motorsport. Now, however, comes the news that there has been a surprise twist to the tale that could see all that erased.
According to British publication Autosport
, the dilution of Group Lotus' parent company Proton by another Malaysian concern, DRB-HICOM, which does not necessarily share the same interest in motorsport.
The immediate outcome of the deal is that Lotus F1 has severed all ties with Group Lotus, even though it intends to continue using the Lotus name for its team and cars. The two parties had signed a seven-year deal to work together in F1, with Group Lotus acting as title sponsor with an option to buy the team in future.
Then, as now, Lotus F1 is owned by Gerard Lopez's Genii Capital concern, and it was Lopez who revealed the end of the partnership with Group Lotus.
“The sponsorship agreement and the obligations of Lotus have been terminated,” he told Autosport
, “There is no option from Group Lotus to buy into F1 now – that option was taken over by us. There was one, but we have taken it over now.
”We are [however] happy to carry the Lotus name as we believe it is a good name for F1. We funded the team last year and the year before for whatever delta was missing."
Despite the loss of Group Lotus' funding, Lopez is confident that the team can continue to attract backers, even if Genii has to fill in in the meantime.
"We would prefer to have sponsors up to the full amount but, if we have to fund it, then we will fund it,” he commented, "When we changed the name from Lotus Renault
to Lotus, it opened up the door for a title sponsor so, if you take into account the fact we signed Unilever, probably the biggest sponsorship agreement this year in F1, and we signed Microsoft, which is huge news as it is a brand that has never been in F1 before, we have a wide space for sponsorship.
"If we sign a title sponsor now, we will end up with a better cash flow situation than this team ever had before."
The impact of DRB-HICOM's arrival on Lopez's own interest in buying up Group Lotus remains unclear.