Crash.Net F1 News
Fernandes: Lotus F3 unlikely
15 February 2010
Lotus F1 team principal Tony Fernandes has admitted that it is unlikely that fans will see the famous marque returning to any other category as a constructor, although he is not above 'lending' the name to select partners for use on the lower rungs of the ladder.
Speaking at the unveiling of the first Lotus F1 entry since 1994 in London recently, Fernandes confirmed that he was keen to foster a solid development programme to help feed talent into the grand prix operation in future years, but admitted that he could not see Lotus becoming an all-encompassing manufacturer of race machinery as it had been under the guidance of founder Colin Chapman.
The team's Malaysian links have already seen it spread its umbrella to rebrand test driver Fairuz Fauzy's World Series by Renault operation Mofaz Racing as Lotus F1 Racing Junior Team, with a carry-over of the famous green-and-yellow livery revealed during the F1 team's shakedown at Silverstone last week. There will also be support for the Litespeed F3 team that first gave rise to a possible Lotus return in the top flight, with Nino Judge's equipe acting as a talent scouting and development pool.
"I don't think [we'll see Lotus return to F3 as a constructor]," Fernandes told journalists, "but we have two or three developmental teams and it shows, again, our seriousness about this that we had put money behind Fairuz in the Renault series and that we will assist Litespeed as well.
"Both of those teams will be development teams for us, so it shows you that we are taking this as a long-term project. We have put a substantial budget behind this as it is very important to not only develop future drivers, but to develop engineers and know-how.
"From my experience at Air Asia, one of the first things I did when we made some money, was to build an academy where we trained our own pilots and our own engineers - we invested a lot of money. Similarly, when I looked at [taking over] West Ham [football club], the thing I liked about them most was the academy, so we are putting a lot of effort into the development side of the team."
Fostering a happy and well-planned team is clearly something that Fernandes has high on his priority list, and he admits that he is happy being a hands-off team principal if there are other better suited to making decisions.
"I'm looking at the car and I can't see whether it's a good or bad car - that's my not my expertise," he admitted, casting an eye over the T127, "[My strength] is in bringing in a group of people and giving them the right environment to work in. I think that is one of the things that [chief technical officer] Mike [Gascoyne] has said, and the team have said - that they are enjoying being back in F1.
"Sometimes, when you work in a corporate environment and everything is bureaucratic, you don't the best out of people. My ability is being able to bring a group of people together and to give them the right environment to do their best, the power of giving someone the ability to perform. And then get Mike the best drivers...."
Those drivers in year one will be veteran Jarno Trulli and coming-man Heikki Kovalainen but, while Fernandes is happy with the line-up, he insists that harmony must again be the important element.
"I think the key thing is that we really are a team, not a group of individuals," he stressed, "The success of Lotus will be as a team. Even with my limited knowledge, if you look at the way Heikki, Fairuz and Jarno work together, I think that is a much better approach than having two drivers trying to out-do each other.
"I think they should use their energy to make the team a better team, and I'd like it to be positive energy. Of course they will be competitive, that's the way they are - they wouldn't be in F1 otherwise - but I think they will use their competitiveness in a positive way to build a better team."