According to the report from Autosport, the Lotus F1 Team owes a massive £2.7 million – equivalent to over $4 million at current exchange rates – to the Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs authority for income tax and national insurance (Brit-speak for social security). The team was supposed to have withheld and submitted the funds on behalf of its 400 employees dating back to June, but since it has yet to pay up, it's being taken to court by the UK government. Apparently unable to foot the bill, the cash-strapped team looked poised to enter bankruptcy just as the Caterham and Manor/Marussia teams did last year. But Renault is now poised to step in to the team's rescue.
Those with a longer memory for F1 history will point out that the Lotus team – which has little to do with the sports car manufacturer of the same name – dates back to 1981, and has changed title and ownership several times over the years. What was founded as Toleman was then taken over by Benetton. Renault acquired the team in 2000, but sold it to its current owners Genii Capital in 2009. The team based in Enstone, UK, won back-to-back world championships with Michael Schumacher in 1994-95 and again with Fernando Alonso in 2005-06, but has struggled both competitively and financially over recent years.
Consigned to an engine-supply role since divesting itself of majority interest in the Lotus team, Renault has been rumored to be preparing to reacquire the outfit from Genii – and in all likelihood switch it back from Mercedes power to its own. Paying the outstanding tax bill will likely emerge as the first step in that reacquisition. Once it takes over full ownership again, Renault is expected to rebrand the team in its own image, and will then have to decide on driver and other personnel contracts for next season.