Lotus has announced the departure of team principal Eric Boullier with immediate effect amidst speculation suggesting that the Frenchman could be on his way to McLaren.
Boullier took the role of team principal with the Enstone-based team back in 2010 but has now elected to leave his role just weeks before the team's new E22 is due to be launched in Bahrain.
Team owner Gerard Lopez will now take on the role of team principal, with co-chairman Andy Ruhan helping out with the running of the former Renault
The full organizational structure of the team for 2014 will be announced prior to the team's first test at the Sakhir circuit, with the decision having already been taken to miss next weeks session in Spain.
Despite Boullier's departure, Lopez insisted that the team remains in a good position going into the new season.
"Lotus F1 Team has never stood still and we head into what promises to be an exciting 2014 season with an innovative new car, new partners and a new management structure at Enstone,” he said. “Great things have been achieved over the past years and we need to continue this momentum.
“We thank Eric for all his hard work over the past four years and we are confident we can continue to fight as one of the top teams in Formula 1 over the seasons ahead.”
Boullier's departure comes just hours before McLaren
become the first team to officially launch its 2014 challenger. Indeed, Crash.net understands that Boullier is likely to be named as the replacement for Martin Whitmarsh in Woking.
Whitmarsh has been under pressure for a number of months following a dire 2013 season for the Mercedes-powered team, with Ron Dennis' decision to take back control of the McLaren
Group only serving to increase the pressure on the embattled team boss.
Speculation had suggested that the likes of Dennis, Ross Brawn and Sam Michael could replace Whitmarsh for the year ahead, although Boullier is now reported by multiple sources to be the man most likely to lead the team with Whitmarsh being ousted from his role.