In the highly competitive environment that is Formula One racing, things can get a bit messy. Rivalries. Crashes. Underhanded maneuvers. Team orders. Scandals. But identity crises? This is a new one. But that's just what we're looking at with Lotus. Because you see as we head into the 2011 championship, two teams are on the docket that both claim the same name and plan to fly the same colors.
We're talking about Lotus-Renault, a legendary pairing but one with a serious split-personality disorder. For the past several months Group Lotus and its Malaysian parent company Proton have been embroiled in a naming rights dispute with Tony Fernandes, owner of what's until now been called the Lotus Racing team. After licensing the name from Proton (and having nothing to do with the engineering firm and automaker we know as Lotus), Fernandes decided he didn't need Proton's permission anymore and renamed his outfit Team Lotus, commensurately switching from Cosworth to Renault engines and pledging to bring back the iconic Lotus black and gold livery.
After a brief exchange in the press, negotiations between the two Lotus parties went behind closed doors. Then reports surfaced that Group Lotus (the automaker) was considering buying Renault out of its stake in its own F1 team, reports that have now been confirmed by official announcement. Renault (the French automaker) has sold its stake in its F1 team to its investment partner Genii Capital, which has in turn sold part to Group Lotus. Retaining Renault engines, the team is therefor being rebranded Lotus Renault GP, and has released the image above showing what their car could look like under the new livery next season.
Thing is, Fernandes' Team Lotus is contracted to use those same engines, and was planning on resurrecting that same iconic livery. Neither seems eager to relent, but there can only be one Lotus-Renault team, so something's got to give before the season kicks off in Bahrain on March 13, so stay tuned and check out the full press release after the jump.
Genii Capital and Group Lotus join forces in Lotus Renault GP
Genii Capital and Group Lotus plc today announced the creation of Lotus Renault GP, the successor to the Renault F1 Team that will contest the 2011 FIA Formula One™ World Championship. This exciting announcement is made in the context of a strategic alliance between the two companies that will provide Group Lotus with significant technological and commercial opportunities for its range of road cars.
Following the return of the Lotus name to Formula 1™ in 2010, under licence from Group Lotus, this historic announcement marks the complete return of the Lotus manufacturer to the sport, with the full backing of its parent company Proton. Group Lotus plc will become a major equity partner of Genii Capital in Lotus Renault GP, and the two parties have concluded a title sponsorship agreement that will run until the end of the 2017 season. With the continued support of Renault as a supplier of engines and technological and engineering expertise, Lotus Renault GP enjoys a strong, stable platform for future success.
Gerard Lopez, Chairman of Renault F1 Team, commented: "We are delighted that we can now go public with the news that we will be racing as Lotus Renault GP in 2011. It is extremely exciting to begin a new era for the team in partnership with Group Lotus, and we will continue to enjoy a strong relationship with Renault over the coming seasons. It is a tribute to the excellent work this year by the team in Enstone that we have been able to attract both major sponsorship and new investment for a very bright future."
Group Lotus CEO Dany Bahar said: "I can think of no better platform for automotive brand communications than motorsport and F1 is the very pinnacle of open-wheel racing. We're well aware that there has been a lot of controversy around the usage of our brand in F1 and I'm delighted to be able to formally clarify our position once and for all: we are Lotus and we are back."
The new partnership has been enabled by Renault selling its remaining shares in the team to Genii Capital. Group Lotus plc will subsequently become a major equity partner in Lotus Renault GP, which it will co-own with Genii Capital.
Renault will continue its strong support of the team with which it won the 2005 and 2006 world championships, as a supplier of engines and technological and engineering expertise. Reflecting this technological support, Lotus Renault GP will continue to compete with the Renault chassis name and Renault will enjoy pre-eminent brand exposure on the livery.
For 2011, the Lotus Renault GP cars will race in a new interpretation of the iconic black and gold colours that were last used when Lotus and Renault joined forces in the 1980s. This livery, which has been on the drawing board for over two months in order to reinterpret its iconic graphic signature to suit modern media requirements, is sure to strike a powerful chord with the sport's enthusiasts around the world.
The team scored a strong fifth-place finish in the 2010 constructors' championship, which included three podium finishes for Robert Kubica. Next season, Lotus Renault GP is aiming to take another step forward which will see it competing regularly with the most prestigious names in Formula 1™.