26 September 2015
F1 Japanese Grand Prix: Renault-Lotus deal to be announced ‘next week’
After months of negotiations, Renault's deal to purchase the Lotus F1 team could finally be announced next week.
Lotus CEO Matthew Carter says an announcement that will finally confirm Renault's return to Formula 1 as a fully-fledged manufacturer will be made as soon as 'next week'.
The French firm has been in negotiations to buy-out the ailing Enstone-based team for several months, a matter made all the more pressing in recent weeks as Lotus' financial dire straits become increasingly exposed.
However, with an HMRC court case looming on Monday 28th September, in which Lotus could very well go into administration if it cannot pay its tax debts, Renault appears set to step in at the last minute to prevent this from happening, which will in turn kick-start its takeover.
Indeed, should Lotus avoid administration, it would all-but-confirm Renault has purchased the team, with formal confirmation set to come as soon as next week, according to Carter.
“Things are looking very positive,” Carter told the BBC. “There is going to be a press release from Renault next week. We are very confident the situation will be resolved. Things are looking very positive at the moment. We are confident Monday will go in our favour and things are looking very positive going forward, much more than in the last few weeks."
The deal will mark a return to Enstone for Renault, who worked out of the base between 2002 – following the purchase of Benetton - and 2009, when it sold its majority stake to Genii Capital, which went on to be rebranded as Lotus from 2011.
Since then, the team has enjoyed notable success, notching up 25 podiums – including two wins – under the Lotus guise. However, this has often been achieved against the backdrop of financial problems, which have worsened in 2015 as debts mount amongst a long list of creditors.
Renault's return as a full manufacturer, meanwhile, comes after switching its focus to becoming an engine supplier from 2010, during which it achieved huge success with Red Bull Racing to win four consecutive world titles. However, its struggle to get a grasp on the V6 Hybrid formula has led to a public fall-out between the two parties, with Renault opting to go it alone again in an effort to recover its former glories.
As it stands, Lotus has already announced one driver in the well-funded Pastor Maldonado for 2016, but it remains to be seen who will partner him under the Renault banner now that Romain Grosjean is almost certainly set to be confirmed with Haas F1.
With Renault backing, it appears Kevin Magnussen is considered a favourite for the drive, with sources confirming to Crash.net that he has been approached for talks. Meanwhile, Lotus reserve driver Jolyon Palmer is in the frame having provided much needed income for the team this year, while former Toro Rosso driver Jean-Eric Vergne could be in the frame now his dreams of a drive at Haas appear to have been scuppered.
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