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The Return of Lotus to Formula 1

on Thu, 01/03/2012 - 17:00

Lotus F1 Car
The celebrated marque of Lotus returned to Formula 1 in 2010 and since then one thing is for sure, the name hasn't received the respect it deserves. Already in as few as 3 seasons there have been several name changes and fans have had to watch senior industry figures publicly squabble over rights issues. As one such fan I feel the need to write down my thoughts on this recent saga.

Initially Lotus’s return was under the freshly branded guise of Lotus Racing. With the tentative backing of Lotus Cars, Tony Fernandes of AirAisa took the role of Team Principle and was accompanied by Mike Gascoyne as Technical Director. Their approach was old school and had a whiff of the historic Lotus spirit about it as they set about creating a car from scratch in little more than a shed in Norfolk. Personally I loved this and while they only just made it to the first race of the season, and remained at the back of the grid for the rest of it, there was a sense of British underdog that rallied my support. When the second season came around they changed to the iconic name of Team Lotus but despite bullish claims points remained elusive and there was little real progress made.

Tony Fernandes
I could speculate on why Lotus Cars removed their support from Team Lotus and called Tony Fernandes’s claim over the name into question but the various court battles are already well trodden ground. What resulted was a season of confusion as Lotus Cars became the principle sponsor of the Renault F1 team and for all intents and purposes there were two Lotus teams in Formula 1. The media flitted backwards and forwards between general confusion and overhyped scandal (after all Mclaren were never referred to as Vodafone). Unfortunately the fans were left nowhere but in a world of uncertainty where both teams publicly embarrassed themselves and muddied the good name of Lotus.

Eventually Team Lotus conceded when wealthy owner Tony Fernandes simplified the situation by buying Caterham Cars, subsequently switching the team name in the process. So a Lotus Cars sponsored Renault team was all that was left standing. Eventually Lotus struck a brand partnership deal with Genii Capital (100% share owners of the team) that saw the car officially stamped as a Lotus.

Lotus F1 Team Logo
The current resting place of the Lotus name doesn't sit well with me. Do Lotus Cars really think they can slap their name across some else’s car in the hope that nobody questions it? To me this feels like an arrogant marketing move with little consideration of the Lotus name, ethos or history. When it was a new team doing their best to build an F1 car against the odds there was a romance. I love Lotus Cars and probably always will, but they should be ashamed of their recent behavior in F1. They need to get it together or get out.

Meanwhile Caterham intend to continue racing in the Green and Yellow Team Lotus colours. Financially I understand this and I genuinely believe it to be the most attractive paint job on the grid but it just seems wrong to be on anything other than a genuine Lotus.

Team Lotus Logo
UPDATE: Since the start of the 2012 season the saga has continued for Group Lotus. Their parent company Proton has been brought out by another Malaysian firm, DRB-HICOM, inevitably raising questions over the future of the Group and their commitment to F1. Following this Lotus have released some frankly childish press releases and more recently the new owners have dismissed Dany Bahar, the CEO of the group, under fairly cloudy circumstances. So what will happen next? Your guess is as good as mine.