Lotus Technical Director Nick Chester says the imminent takeover from Renault is unlikely to affect the driver line-up for the 2016 Formula 1 Season.
Following months of negotiation, Renault will return to the sport as a constructor for the first time through its purchase of Lotus, with the deal expected to be complete before the end of the month.
Speaking to Reuters
, Chester clarified that Pastor Maldonado and Jolyon Palmer, who will replace Haas-bound Romain Grosjean in 2016, are likely to be at the team at the start of next season despite the takeover.
“As we all know, contracts can be broken if both parties particularly want to” Chester said, “but they have both got contracts and therefore I think in January it's just going to be an announcement of everything.
“The contracts have been agreed with Renault. No decision has been made on a third driver, so whether or not they have someone French maybe lined up for that role I don't know.”
Doubt had been cast on the driver line-up when Renault's chief executive Carlos Ghosn told France's Le Figaro newspaper that “In January, we will explain the organisation, goals, strategy and we will also talk about drivers and partners.”
However, Maldonado's future in particular is likely to have been assured by the substantial backing he provides from Venezuela's state-owned oil company PDVSA, which are considered pivotal to the takeover.
“Pastor and his funds are part and parcel of Renault's plans certainly for the next 12 months,” Chester continued. “I think the two drivers will be as we think.”
The administration case against Lotus has been adjourned for the third time until the 28th December, giving Renault time to pay off the debts after they complete the takeover.
Lotus F1 had been under extreme pressure from British tax authorities, with the Enstone-based team thought to owe £2.7million in unpaid income tax debts to the HMRC, before Renault stepped in with a 'letter of intent' to buy the team at the eleventh hour.
by Jack Healy