Group Lotus and Team Lotus weren't expected to get their day in court until the summer, but the two outfits are reportedly heading to trial next week to seek a resolution of the naming rights dispute that has emerged between them. The earlier court proceedings in London will reportedly seek a summary judgment, a sort of preemptive ruling that could obviate the need for a drawn-out legal battle between the two parties.
For those unfamiliar, Group Lotus parent company Proton had licensed the name Lotus to an independent F1 team that joined the field last year. The two entities then had a difference of opinion on continuing the contract for a second season, after which Group Lotus (maker of the cars we know and love) bought out the Renault F1 team to form Lotus Renault GP. The independent Malaysian team, meanwhile, is also contracted to run Renault engines next season, leaving the two teams with nearly identical names in every respect.
The two outfits were also set to run similar black-and-gold liveries this season, but the independent Team Lotus opted to stick with the existing green-and-yellow livery as Lotus Renault GP unveiled the retro black-and-gold scheme at the Autosport International show in Birmigham (images from which we've put into the gallery below for your viewing pleasure). The team could, however, run afoul of anti-tobacco legislation (in Canada of all places, where the law's implementation was originally delayed in order to keep their grand prix) since the livery is a throwback to when tobacco brand JPS sponsored the outfit in its heyday.
In a related development, the Lotus Renault GP team is reportedly preparing to hire a large number of Malaysian employees as well, including Fairuz Fauzy. The Malaysian driver – winner of races in A1GP, GP2 and Formula Renault 3.5 – served as a test driver last season for Lotus Racing (aka Team Lotus) but recently quit the team with no explanation, and will now be acting as Lotus Renault GP's official test and reserve driver alongside Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov.
Finally, Lotus has also announced the recruitment of former F1 driver Jean Alesi, who will serve as an ambassador for the Exos/Type 125 program and the latest in a long line of former Ferrari employees who have followed CEO Dany Behar (a former Ferrari vice-president himself) to Lotus. Got all that? Now check out the fresh batch of images in the gallery below.
[Sources: Autosport, Lotus]