The relationship between Lotus the automaker and Lotus the F1 racing team only seems to be getting more complicated. The name was licensed by Malaysian state automaker Proton to fellow Malaysian businessman Tony Fernandes for use by his F1 team. Then Fernandes announced he didn't need Proton's permission and bought the name from a third party who claimed ownership. Proton and Lotus disputed the claim and canceled the licensing agreement, but Fernandes insisted he was within his rights. Both Lotus and Fernandes then launched their own GP2 feeder teams. Rumors then surfaced that Lotus the automaker was set to jump into F1 on its own by buying Renault's team, leaving us to wonder which team would race under the Lotus name and which would be forced to back down.
The signs seemed to point towards Fernandes losing the battle, but the latest word indicates otherwise. After racing their first season in classic Lotus green and yellow, the team has now announced it will be "returning" to the black and gold livery that Team Lotus used in its heyday under John Player Special sponsorship. Only now, of course, tobacco sponsorship is banned in F1.
Have the two Lotus outfits come up with this as a solution to differentiate one team from another? Or is Fernandes preparing to soldier on under the Lotus banner regardless of what the automaker says? We'll find out sooner or later, but as of now it appears the controversy has far from subsided.